Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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ACTS - Chapter 21

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Acts 21

Supplemental Commentary:

THE MISSIONARY JOURNEYS OF ST. PAUL  13, 1 -- 28, 31 (continued)

3.  Third Missionary Journey  18, 23 -- 21, 16 (continued)

21, 1-16:  Tyre:  Ptolemais and Caesarea.  At this time and during St. Paul's two-year imprisonment at Caesarea (24-26) St. Luke doubtless heard from Philip many details about the ministry both of our Lord and of the early evangelists.    11.  In the symbolic manner of the Old Testament prophets Agabus bound himself with St. Paul's girdle to signify his arrest at Jerusalem.

4.  Imprisonment in Palestine  21, 17 -- 26, 32

21, 17-26:  Jerusalem.    20.  Thousands: in Greek "tens of thousands," but used as a round number to indicate a great multitude.  As at the beginning (2, 46), the converts continued to attend the services in the temple.    21.  The charge was false, if it meant directly persuading Jewish converts to abandon their customs; but it was true in the sense that he taught that there was no longer any strict obligation for Jews to observe these customs.    23.  Vow: the Nazirite vow.  Their heads would be shaved on the seventh day, and the necessary sacrifice offered on the eighth.    24.  Sanctify: since he had just arrived from the Diaspora St. Paul would need levitical purification, and besides he had still to offer the sacrifice for his own vow (18, 18).  Since the hair was to be burnt in the fire of the sacrifice (Num. 6, 18), St. Paul perhaps again shaved his head.    25.  We ourselves have written: at the Council of Jerusalem (c. 15).  This is not an assertion of the authority of the church at Jerusalem over the other churches; it simply states the fact that there the assembled Apostles and presbyters, including St. Paul himself, had passed this decree.    26.  Days of purification: in accord with Num. 6, 5.

21, 27-39:  Paul's Arrest.    28.  Into the temple: inside the barrier separating the Court of the Gentiles from the inner court into which Gentiles were forbidden to enter under pain of death.    31.  Tribune of the cohort: the commander of the garrison in Jerusalem.  The procurator had his headquarters at Caesarea and usually left to the tribune the task of keeping order in Jerusalem.  A cohort, the tenth part of a Roman legion, numbered five or six hundred heavy armed soldiers with about an equal number of light or auxiliary troops.  This would give the tribune about a thousand men, and the Greek term here is "chiliarch," the commander of a thousand.  In 23, 23 the escort given St. Paul amounts to four hundred seventy.  This seems a large proportion of the garrison, but with the exception of the seventy horsemen they would all return the next day (23, 32).    38.  Josephus gives contradictory accounts of this affair of the Egyptian, and the tribune may be stating only the popular version.  If he erred in the number or place, the mistake was his; St. Luke is responsible only for accurately reporting what the tribune said.

Confraternity Bible:

Tyre  1 And when we had parted from them and had set sail, we made a straight course and came to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara.  2 There we found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, and we went on board and set sail.  3 After sighting Cyprus and leaving it to the left, we sailed for Syria and landed at Tyre, for there the ship was to unload her cargo.  4 Having looked up the disciples, we stayed there seven days.  And they told Paul through the Spirit not to go to Jerusalem.  5 But when our time was up we left there and went on, and all of them with their wives and children escorted us till we were out of the city; and we knelt down on the shore and prayed.  6 And having said farewell to one another, we went on board the ship and they returned home.

Ptolemais and Caesarea  7 After completing the voyage from Tyre, we landed at Ptolemais where we greeted the brethren and spent a day with them.  8 The next day we departed and came to Caesarea, where we went to the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him.  9 He had four daughters, virgins, who had the gift of prophecy.  10 And while we were staying on there for some days, there came down from Judea a certain prophet named Agabus.  11 Coming to us, and taking Paul's girdle, he bound his own feet and hands, and said, "Thus says the Holy Spirit: the man whose girdle this is the Jews will bind like this at Jerusalem, and they will deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles."  12 On hearing this, we ourselves and the people there begged him not to go to Jerusalem.  13 Then Paul answered and said, "What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart?  For I am ready not only to be bound but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."  14 And when we could not persuade him, we acquiesced and said, "The Lord's will be done."  15 After this we made our preparations and went our way to Jerusalem.  16 And some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us, taking with them Mnason, a Cypriot, an early disciple, whose guests we were to be.

Jerusalem  17 On our arrival at Jerusalem the brethren gave us a hearty welcome.  18 On the next day Paul went with us to James, and all the presbyters came in.  19 After greeting them, he related in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

20 They praised God when they heard it and they said to him, "Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, all of them zealous upholders of the Law.  21 Now, they have heard about thee that thou dost teach the Jews who live among the Gentiles to depart from Moses, telling them they should not circumcise their children nor observe the customs.  22 What then?  The multitude is sure to assemble, for they will hear that thou hast come.  23 So do what we tell thee.  We have four men who are under a vow; 24 take them and sanctify thyself along with them, and pay for them that they may shave their heads; and all will know that what they have heard of thee is false, but that thou thyself also observest the Law.  25 But as for the Gentile believers, we ourselves have written our decision that they abstain from idol offerings and from blood and from what is strangled and from immorality."

26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day after being purified along with them he entered the temple and announced the completion of the days of purification, when the sacrifice would be offered for each of them.

Paul's Arrest  27 But when the seven days were almost over, the Jews from the province of Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up all the people and seized him, shouting, 28 "Men of Israel, help.  This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people and the Law and this place, and moreover he has brought Gentiles also into the temple and has desecrated this holy place."  29 For they had seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him and they supposed that Paul had taken him into the temple.  30 And the whole city was thrown into confusion, and the people ran together, and seizing Paul, they proceeded to drag him out of the temple; whereupon the doors were immediately shut.

31 They were trying to kill him, when news reached the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in a tumult.  32 And he, immediately taking soldiers and centurions, ran down to them; and when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.  33 Then the tribune came up and seized him and ordered him to be bound with two chains, and inquired who he was and what he had been doing.  34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing, and some another, and as he could not learn anything certain on account of the tumult, he ordered him to be taken into the barracks.  35 And when he came to the steps, he was actually being carried by the soldiers owing to the violence of the crowd; 36 for the mass of the people followed, shouting, "Away with him!"

37 And as Paul was about to be taken into the barracks, he said to the tribune, "May I say something to thee?"  He said, "Dost thou know Greek?  38 Art not thou the Egyptian who recently stirred up to sedition and led out into the desert the four thousand assassins?"  39 But Paul said to him, "I am a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no insignificant city.  But I beg thee, give  me leave to speak to the people."

Discourse to the People  40 He gave him leave, and Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people and when they had become quiet he addressed them in Hebrew, saying: