Acts 14: New American Commentary

4. Acceptance and Rejection at Iconium (14:1–7)

1At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. 2But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders. 4The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. 5There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. 6But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, 7where they continued to preach the good news.

14:1 The pattern of a mixed response set in Pisidian Antioch again greeted the missionaries at their next place of witness, Iconium.53 It was no easy journey. Iconium was some ninety miles southeast of Antioch by the Sebastian way, the main route that connected Ephesus with Syria and Mesopotamia. Iconium was located on a plateau 3,370 feet in elevation. In many ways the city was strongly Hellenized because it had been under Seleucid rule during the second and third centuries before Christ. In Paul’s day the Roman influence was particularly in evidence, as is indicated by the name Claudiconium, which was granted to it in a.d. 41 by the emperor Claudius. It was considered a particular honor for a city to be given the right to bear the emperor’s name. In short, at Iconium Paul and Barnabas encountered a cultural amalgam—native Phrygians whose ancestors had occupied the area from ancient times, Greeks and Jews who dated back to the Seleucid period (312–65 b.c.), and Roman colonists whose presence dated from more recent times. Geographically it was the most ideal place for human settlement in an otherwise desolate area, and there is evidence for a town there from ancient times right down to the present.54

14:1–3 In setting up their witness in the major city of the area, the two missionaries followed a pattern Paul would continue to follow—establishing his work in the major population centers. Paul and Barnabas began their work in the usual manner.55 They went first to the Jewish synagogue. Even though Paul’s words in Pisidian Antioch had a somewhat definitive ring to them about turning to the Gentiles (13:46), they evidently only applied to that city. Throughout Acts, Paul’s usual method would be to go first to the synagogues. There was wisdom to this. For one, Paul never gave up on the Jews. There would be some who would hear gladly the message of Messiah’s coming. Also there would be present in the synagogues Gentile proselytes and other Gentiles who believed in God and would be particularly open to the inclusive Christian message. Indeed, v. 1 attests to Paul and Barnabas having success among both these groups, Jews as well as Gentiles. Verse 2, however, points to a reaction from the nonbelieving Jews. Not only did they resist the missionaries’ witness themselves, but they also poisoned the minds of the Gentile populace against the Christian witnesses.56 Verse 3 creates something of a problem. One wonders why Luke said “so” Paul and Barnabas spent a long time in Iconium after such opposition had erupted against them. Verse 4 would seem to follow more naturally on v. 2 with its note of the city being divided against the apostles, and some scholars have concluded that v. 3 is a later scribal addition and not part of the original text of Acts.57 It is not necessary to do so. Verse 3 is in deliberate tension with the preceding and emphasizes the power of the Christian witness and the divine enabling behind it. Even though there was strong resistance to the Christians (v. 2), still they were able to maintain their witness. The two apostles were not about to back down. They had the power of the Holy Spirit to speak “boldly” for the Lord (cf. 4:29–31). Far from being intimidated, they were inspired to even bolder witness.

14:4 As the apostles continued their witness, the city became more and more polarized into those who supported them and those who opposed them (v. 4). It is noteworthy that Luke used the term “apostle” here to refer to Paul and Barnabas. Here and 14:14 are the only places where he applied the term to anyone other than the Twelve disciples. The word means literally one who is sent and is used of official delegates or emissaries. Paul used the term regularly to refer to his own commission as an emissary of Christ. He applied the term to others as well: James, the Lord’s brother (Gal 1:19; 1 Cor 15:7), Andronicus and Junias (Rom 16:7), and an unnamed group whom he distinguished from the Twelve (1 Cor 15:7; cf. 15:5). In Acts, Luke used the term in a restricted sense, which denotes only the Twelve who were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ entire ministry.58 Acts 14:4, 14 are the exceptions to the rule. Perhaps Luke indicated here that Paul and Barnabas were delegates of the Antioch church, commissioned by them for their mission. Perhaps it indicates Luke’s awareness of the wider application of the word and that he here slipped into the more customary and less specialized usage.

14:5–7 The opposition to the two grew to such a point that a plot was hatched to stone them (v. 5). It does not seem to have been a question of official synagogue stoning since the Gentile populace was equally involved with the Jews. The whole picture seems to have been one of mob violence rather than expulsion by the city officials, as was the case in Pisidian Antioch (13:50).59 In any event, Paul and Barnabas learned of the plot and fled to the nearby towns of Lystra and Derbe in Lycaonia. The region of Lycaonia lay east of Iconium and was also in the Roman province of Galatia.60 Lystra lay some twenty miles to the south of Iconium, and Derbe was another sixty miles or so southeast of Lystra. Verses 6–7 are best seen as an introductory paragraph for the Lycaonian ministry. The ministry in Lystra will be depicted in vv. 8–20a. The work in Derbe is summarized in vv. 20b–21a. There were no other significant towns in the region, but the reference to the “surrounding country” in v. 6 might indicate that they evangelized the smaller towns and countryside of Lycaonia as well.

5. Preaching to Pagans at Lystra (14:8–21a)

The major episode of chap. 14 takes place in Lystra. It began with Paul healing a cripple there (vv. 8–10). This precipitated a remarkable reaction from the native Lystrans, who attempted to honor the apostles as gods (vv. 11–13). The attempted homage of the populace prompted a strong protest from Paul and Barnabas, which was mainly expressed in a brief sermon (vv. 14–18). Ironically, the Lystran ministry was concluded when the same crowd who tried to worship Paul and Barnabas turned against Paul and attempted to stone him to death (vv. 19–20a). The section ends with a brief note of the work established in Derbe (vv. 20b–21a).

(1) A Lame Man Healed (14:8–10)

8In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. 9He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.

514:8–10 The site of Lystra was identified only in 1885, lying near the modern village of Khatyn Serai. Located in the hill country and surrounded by mountains, it was a small country town in Paul’s day. Its main significance was as a Roman military post, and for that reason it had been given the status of a colony in 6 b.c. A Roman military road connected it with the other colony city in the region, Pisidian Antioch, 100 miles or so to the northwest. A statue has been found at Antioch which Lystra presented to that city in the second or third century and commemorating a concordat between the two cities. Perhaps this interaction between the two towns explains why Jews would have come so far in pursuit of Paul (v. 19).61

The healing of the lame man in vv. 8–10 has many features in common with Peter’s healing of Aeneas (9:32–35) and particularly with his healing the lame man at the temple gate (3:2–10). Like the latter, this man had been lame from his birth. Also like the man at the Beautiful Gate, this man leaped up and walked about when healed.62 There are differences in the two narratives. In this instance the lame man showed a glimmer of faith (v. 9).63 Perhaps it was in response to Paul’s speaking; he may well have been bearing testimony to the gospel. In any event, the healing is told with the utmost brevity. Paul directed him to stand, and the man immediately jumped to his feet and began to walk about. There is no mention of the name of Jesus or the power of God, but the reader of Acts has had sufficient examples by now to know that it is indeed through the divine power that the miracle was worked (cf. 3:16; 4:30; 9:34). The people at Lystra did not know that, and this ignorance led them to the wrong reaction.

(2) Paul and Barnabas Paid Homage (14:11–13)

11When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.

14:11–13 There was evidently no Jewish synagogue in Lystra. There was at least one family of Jewish extraction there, since Lystra was the home of Timothy and his Jewish mother (16:1). By and large, however, Lystra seems to have consisted primarily of Gentile pagans; and their reaction to the lame man’s healing reflects that background. “The gods have come down to us in human form!” they exclaimed (v. 11). At this point Paul and Barnabas had no inkling of what was transpiring because the crowd’s exclamation was in their own native Lycaonian dialect.64 The people even delineated which gods had come to visit them. They probably started with Paul. Since he was doing most of the speaking, he must be Hermes, the Greek god of oratory and the inventor of speech. Barnabas was dubbed Zeus, the head of the Greek pantheon. Just why Barnabas received this honor Luke did not specify. Perhaps it was because of an ancient legend found in their region that Zeus and Hermes had once descended to earth in human guise.65

Paul and Barnabas did begin to sense that something was afoot when the priest of Zeus arrived on the scene with bulls for sacrifice (v. 13). The temple evidently stood just outside the city gates, and it is unclear whether the intended sacrifice was to take place at the city gates or before the gates of the temple.66 The latter would be the more normal procedure. The sacrifice was to be anything but perfunctory, since the victims were garlanded with festive woolen wreaths.67 Only the best for visiting gods!

(3) Paul and Barnabas Dismayed (14:14–18)

14But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15“Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. 16In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” 18Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.

14:14–18 By now the two apostles were fully aware of what was taking place. They rushed into the crowd, rending their garments. The tearing of one’s clothes is a gesture found elsewhere in the Bible. It could dramatize a state of mourning (cf. Gen 37:29, 34), express extreme distress (Josh 7:6), or protest a perceived blasphemy (Mark 14:63). Here the gesture expressed ardent protest and was designed to put a stop to the intended sacrifice. “We too are only men, human like you,” they shouted (v. 15). They were not about to be a party to such a blasphemous act. Herod Antipas had himself been given homage as a god, and he fared none too well for failing to deny it (12:22–23). It seems to be human nature to want gods that can be seen and touched, gods in the likeness of men. “Holy men” in every age succumb to the temptation to be venerated. Ministers should follow the example of the apostles and take warning from Herod.

Once they had gotten the crowd’s attention, they explained their protest in the form of a minisermon (vv. 15–18). It is the first sermon in Acts to a purely pagan group, which believed in many gods and had no knowledge whatever of the God of the Jews and Christians. The apostles had to start at the very beginning, not with the coming of Christ but with the basic theological assumption of monotheism—that God is one (Deut 6:4). As such the sermon has its parallel in Paul’s address to the Areopagus (17:22–31), and in many ways the address to the Athenians is the best commentary on the sermon at Lystra. The text reads almost as if the sermon was delivered by both apostles, but it is probably a fair assumption that Paul was the spokesman on this occasion as well (cf. 14:12).

Paul’s introduction had to do with the vanity of their worship. Any religion is pretty empty that would venerate men as gods. The pagan polytheism was vanity, emptiness, worthlessness, idolatrous worship of gods who were nongods (cf. Jer 2:5; Rom 1:21–23). Paul exhorted them to abandon this vain worship and turn to the one true and living God, the source of all that truly lives. This was the main theme of the sermon—the living God.68 Three things are said about God.

First, he is Creator of all life, all that dwells on earth and in the seas and in the skies. Paul was perhaps quoting from Ps 146:6, but it is in any event the threefold division of creation familiar from the Old Testament (cf. Exod 20:11; Acts 4:24; 17:24). Paul’s second point deals with God’s forbearance and mercy. In former generations God allowed the Gentiles to go their own way (v. 16). The implication is that then their deeds were done in ignorance and to that extent they were not held accountable for them (cf. 17:30a). But then implies now. Then they had had no revelation; now they did. Then they had not known the true God. Now Paul was revealing him to them. Then they had not been held accountable; now they were accountable (cf. 17:30b). Yet even in the past God had not left himself without a witness. He had revealed himself in his works of natural providence. This was Paul’s final point (v. 17). God had been sending rain from heaven and causing the crops to flourish. Fruitful harvests had brought plenty of food to nourish the body and cheer the soul.69 Such ideas of divine providence would not have been strange to the ears of the Lystrans. They were often expressed by pagan writers in speaking of the benevolence of the gods.70 What was new to them was Paul’s message of the one God—that all the benevolence of nature came from the one and only God who was himself the source of all creation.

It has often been argued that Paul drew opposite conclusions from the argument from natural providence in the Lystran sermon as compared to Rom 1:18–25. That is true, but it is equally true that the two are in no way contradictory. The basic premise is identical in both: God has revealed himself in his works, in creation. The contexts and hence the application of the premise are radically different in the two instances. In the speech at Lystra as well as the speech on the Areopagus (cf. 17:24–28), Paul used the argument from creation to build bridges, to establish a point of identification with his pagan hearers. While they may never have heard of his God before, they had seen him—in his providential works of nature. In Rom 1:18–25 Paul was seeking to establish humanity’s responsibility before a just God. The Gentiles could not claim that they had no responsibility before God on the grounds that they had received no revelation. They had received revelation in God’s providential works of creation and had perverted that revelation by worshiping nature itself, exchanging the Creator for the creation. The Gentiles were thus without excuse (Rom 1:20). We simply do not know how Paul would have moved to establish the Lystrans’ need to repent had he moved on to discuss repentance and judgment. His sermon was not completed at Lystra. The Areopagus speech gives an idea of how he would have proceeded. There the call to repentance is very closely linked to the Gentile idolatry (Acts 17:29f.), which is precisely the argument of Rom 1:18–25.

Evidently Paul and Barnabas were cut short in their witness. It is anything but a complete exposition of the gospel. Paul never got beyond the basic monotheistic message of one God. There is no reference to Christ at all. Luke was well aware of its incompleteness. Verse 18 indicates that the sermon was cut off. The crowd was still intent on sacrificing to the apostles, so impressed had they been by the healing of the lame man. Even with his brief sermon on God, Paul could scarcely restrain them. The time in Lystra, however, was not over. There would be occasion in the future to introduce them to Christ. Just how he would have moved on to speak of Christ to a pagan Gentile group we will see in the Areopagus sermon of chap. 17.

(4) Paul and Barnabas Rejected (14:19–20a)

19Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city.

14:19–20a The apostles evidently worked for a while in Lystra as is indicated by the presence of disciples there (v. 20a).71 One would have thought that Lystra would be particularly receptive, given its mainly Gentile population and the fact that they had even taken the apostles for gods. But crowds are fickle, especially when their expectations are not fulfilled. Perhaps their regard for the apostles soured when they discovered that they were not bringing them the material blessings of the gods. In any event, they were turned against Paul and Barnabas by a group of Paul’s former Jewish opponents who had come from Iconium and even the 100 miles from Pisidian Antioch. In an act of mob violence, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, taking him for dead. Just why Barnabas was spared is not indicated. He was evidently not present on the occasion when Paul was attacked. Some of the disciples from Lystra came out of town and encircled Paul’s body, perhaps indicating that they had some question about his death and desired to protect him from further harm. Suddenly Paul rose in their midst and was able to accompany them back into the city. The question has often been raised whether Paul actually was restored from death. Luke’s reference to their “thinking he was dead” (v. 19) would indicate that this was not the case. A miracle did occur, however. God’s deliverance of his own from a dire threat like this is a special testimony to his protective providence, and that is always a miracle. In his catalogue of his trials, Paul mentioned in 2 Cor 11:25 the one time when he had been stoned, probably referring to this incident at Lystra (cf. 2 Tim 3:11).

(5) The Ministry at Derbe (14:20b–21a)

The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.

21They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples.

14:20b–21a Paul and Barnabas did not linger in Lystra. It was no longer safe to remain there. The very next morning they set out for Derbe (v. 20b). Since Derbe was some sixty miles southeast of Lystra, the journey would have taken several days on foot.72 Luke related no specific anecdote about the ministry in Derbe but only gave the essential details that a successful witness was carried on there and many disciples were won to the Lord. Derbe was the easternmost church established on the mission of Paul and Barnabas. Had the two chosen to do so, they could have continued southeast from Derbe on through the Cilician gates the 150 miles or so to Paul’s hometown of Tarsus and from there back to Syrian Antioch. It would have been the easiest route home by far. They chose, however, to retrace their footsteps and revisit all the congregations that had been established in the course of the mission. In so doing they gave an important lesson on the necessity of follow-up and nurture for any evangelistic effort. Paul would again visit these same congregations on his next mission (16:1–6).

6. The Missionaries’ Return to Antioch (14:21b–28)

Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. 23Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. 24After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, 25and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.

26From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. 28And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.

14:21b–23 The two apostles returned the way they had come, revisiting the newly established churches along the route—first Lystra, then Iconium, and finally Pisidian Antioch. In each congregation they performed three essential ministries. First, they strengthened the disciples (v. 22a). This probably refers to their further instructing the Christians in their new faith. Second, they encouraged them “to remain true to the faith” and pointed out the “many hardships” they might encounter for bearing the name of Jesus (v. 22b).73 Paul and Barnabas had themselves experienced persecution on this trip in almost every city where they witnessed. They reminded the Christians that this was not just the lot of missionaries but could be expected of all who carry Christ’s name. The theme is one Paul often sounded in his epistles—we must be willing to suffer with Christ if we expect to share in his glory (Rom 8:17; cf. 2 Thess 1:4; 2 Tim 2:12); the path to resurrection is by way of the cross.

The final ministry of the apostles was to establish leadership in the new congregations. For these early churches there was no professional clergy to assume their leadership. Consequently, the pattern of the Jewish synagogues seems to have been followed by appointing a group of lay elders to shepherd the flock. There is some question in this particular instance about who appointed the elders—the apostles or the congregation. The NIV text follows the most natural rendering of the Greek construction: Paul and Barnabas appointed the elders (v. 23).74 This seems to be an exception to the more common practice of the congregation appointing its leadership (cf. Acts 6:1–6).75 Perhaps in these early congregations the wisdom of the apostles was needed in establishing solid leadership over those so recently converted from paganism. Perhaps even in these instances the selections of the apostles were confirmed by vote of the congregations.

14:24–25 Verses 24–25 complete the mission of Paul and Barnabas, giving the final leg of the return trip. Again they traversed the rugged mountain paths of Pisidia into the lowlands of Pamphylia and arrived at Perga, where they had started (cf. 13:13–14a). No mention was made earlier of any witness in Perga, but now they devoted some time to preaching the gospel there. Then they descended to Attalia (modern Adalia), the main port town of that region.

14:26–28 The first missionary journey was completed with the return of the apostles to Syrian Antioch. Verse 26 forms an inclusio, or bracket, with 13:2f. It was the Antioch church that had commissioned the apostles, committing them to the Lord by prayer and fasting and identifying with their mission (“work”) by the laying on of hands. The work was now complete, and the two missionaries gave their report to the sponsoring congregation. Verse 27b marks a transition. The subject of opening “the door of faith to the Gentiles” would be the main topic of the Jerusalem Conference in the next chapter.76 It summarizes the primary significance of the mission in chaps. 13–14. Evidently the report of this mission did not immediately reach Jerusalem, and Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch for “a long time” (v. 28). Word would eventually spread to Jerusalem and provoke the major debate that is the subject of chap. 15.

53 Streams from the mountains irrigated the level plains to the east of the city, making it a flourishing agricultural area in an otherwise arid region. Particularly noted for its orchards and woolen industry, it was an important commercial center, since several major trade routes conjoined with the via Sebaste at Iconium. Located in the ancient region of Phrygia, it had been incorporated by the Romans into the province of Galatia in 25 b.c. The ancient literary sources are somewhat divided about whether Iconium was in Pisidia or Lycaonia. It seems to have been located on the border of the two areas but inside Phrygian territory, as has been shown by Ramsay (Cities of St. Paul, 317–70). For a description of Iconium, see also M. F. Unger, “Archaeology and Paul’s Visit to Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe,” BibSac 118 (1961): 107–12.

54 The modern Konya is located on the site of ancient Iconium.

55 The Greek (κατὰ τὸ αὐτὸ) could be construed like ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ and translated “Paul and Barnabas together entered the synagogue.” The NIV rendering “as usual” is preferable. Luke was pointing to their general pattern of going first to the Jews.

56 Behind “poison their minds” is the verb κακόω, which usually has the meaning to ill-treat but which can also have the meaning to embitter someone against someone else. Cf. Ps 106 (LXX 105): 32. This picture of the Gentile opposition to the Christians in Iconium is greatly elaborated in “The Acts of Paul and Thecla,” a second-century piece of Christian fiction with a pronounced ascetic tendency. The deacon who wrote the work was removed from office for producing it, and it is probably wise not to use it for elucidating Paul’s ministry in Iconium, as some commentators are tempted to do (cf. Rackham, Acts, 226–27).

57 So conservative a scholar as Ramsay argued this (St. Paul the Traveller, 107–09). Moffatt solved the problem by transposing vv. 2–3 in his translation. The Western scribes of Codex Bezae made explicit what is already implicit in v. 3, adding “the Lord gave them peace.” One scholar even suggests moving v. 3 to the middle of v. 48 in chap. 13 (J. H. Michael, “The Original Position of Acts xiv, 3,” ExpTim 40 [1929–30]: 514–16). For the view that μὲν οὖν should be translated not as “therefore” but as “rather,” see D. S. Sharp, “The Meaning of μὲν οὖν in Acts xiv, 3,” ExpTim 44 (1932–33): 528.

58 For bibliography and further discussion, see chap. I, n. 61.

59 Ramsay (Cities, 371–73) interprets the “leaders” of v. 5 as the city magistrates.

60 In a.d. 41 Lycaonia was divided into two areas, Lycaonia Galatica (within the Roman province of Galatia) and Lycaonia Antiochiana (to the east and under the Roman client-king Antiochus). See Beginnings 4:162 and Ramsay, Traveller, 110–13.

61 Ramsay, Cities, 407–18.

62 The Acts narratives contain a remarkable number of parallels between Peter and Paul. It may well be that Luke selected these particular incidents from the traditions available to him in order to highlight how God worked in the same manner through the apostle to the Gentiles as he had the apostle to the Jews.

63 Faith is often connected to healings in the miracles of Jesus, usually noted by Jesus after the healing with the words “your faith has made you whole” (cf. Luke 7:50; 8:48; 17:19; 18:42). With the lame man at the temple gate, there is no mention of faith in the healing story, but Peter did seem to refer to it in his subsequent sermon (Acts 3:16).

64 Lycaonian was an isolated hill-country dialect, and there are few literary remains of it. Centuries of Hellenistic influence in their area would have given them knowledge of Greek, and they would have had no difficulty in understanding Paul’s koine. As residents of a Roman colony, they may have had some familiarity with Latin as well. See H. J. Cadbury, Book of Acts in History (London: Black, 1955), 21–22.

65 Seeking hospitality, these gods were rejected by everyone except for an impoverished elderly couple by the name of Philemon and Baucis. The couple not only took them in but forfeited their own meager repast in order to give it to the strangers. The gods rewarded the generous couple by transforming their cottage into a magnificent temple with a gilded roof. The inhospitable neighbors were punished by being inundated by a severe flood. The populace at Lystra may well have wanted to avoid the same mistake with regard to the miracle-working pair that now had come to visit them. The story is told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses viii, 626ff., where it is traced to Phrygia-Lycaonia. It is sometimes argued that the Lycaonians would not have had Greek gods, but there is ample evidence that by the first century the ancient gods had been thoroughly Hellenized. In the 1920s two inscriptions were found close to Lystra, both of which are dedicated to Zeus and Hermes, attesting to the presence of this particular pair in the mythology of the area. See “Acts 14, 12,” ExpTim 37 (1925–26): 528.

66 Likely the temple was designated “the Zeus before the city,” with the prepositional phrase functioning almost adjectivally (equivalent to the adjective πρόπολις often found in inscriptions).

67 G. D. Kilpatrick argues for the text of Codex Bezae being the correct reading in v. 13. Instead of θύειν, it has ἐπιθύειν for “sacrifice,” a term used in the LXX and Josephus for an improper, pagan sacrifice (“Epithuein and epikrinein in the Greek Bible,” ZNW 74 [1983]: 151–53).

68 For a similar treatment of turning from idolatry to the living God, cf. 1 Thess 1:9. For God as the source of all true life, cf. 1 Cor 8:6.

69 The Greek is somewhat obscure in v. 17, literally reading “filling your hearts with food and rejoicing.” The NIV preserves the intended sense well. See O. Lagercrantz, “Act 14, 17,” ZNW (1932): 86–87.

70 See F. G. Downing, “Common Ground with Paganism in Luke and in Josephus,” NTS 28 (1982): 546–52. For an argument that the basic source of this emphasis on providence is Jesus’ teaching on the mercy of God, see E. Lerle, “Die Predigt in Lystra (Acta xiv, 15–18),” NTS 7 (1960–61): 46–55.

71 The Western text adds the note in v. 19 that the apostles “spent some time [in Lystra] and taught,” thus making explicit what is implicit in the mention of the Lystran “disciples” in v. 20.

72 Recent epigraphic evidence indicates that Derbe was located further south and east of the site formerly maintained. The new site is at Kerti Huyok, thirteen miles northeast of modern Karaman. If this is correct, Derbe would have been located on the frontier as a Roman military post between the province of Galatia and the client-kingdom of Antiochus. See B. van Elderen, “Some Archaeological Observations,” Apostolic History and the Gospel, 156–61; G. Ogg, “Derbe,” NTS 9 (1962–63): 367–70. Because this new site is as yet unexcavated, the location of Derbe remains somewhat uncertain.

73 The occurrence of “we” in v. 22 belongs to the apostles’ address to the churches and is in no way evidence for a “we source” or Luke’s presence on this occasion. See H. J. Cadbury, “Lexical Notes on Luke-Acts,” JBL 48 (1929): 417.

74 The NIV footnotes indicate the alternative—that the congregation may have elected the elders, with Paul and Barnabas confirming this by laying their hands on them. The evidence for this translation is that the verb χειροτονέω often has the meaning to elect by vote as well as to appoint.

75 In the letters of Ignatius around the turn of the first/second century and in Didache 15:1, it is clear that the congregations elected their leadership. See J. M. Ross, “The Appointment of Presbyters in Acts xiv.23,” ExpTim 63 (1951): 288–89.

76 The metaphor of an “open door” as an opportunity for witness is a favorite expression of Paul. Cf. 1 Cor 16:9; 2 Cor 2:12; Col 4:3.

 John B. Polhill, Acts, vol. 26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 312–320.


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