Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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ACTS - Chapter 28

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Acts 28

Supplemental Commentary:

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

5.  Imprisonment in Rome  27, 1 -- 28, 31 (continued)

28, 1-10:  Malta.    2.  Natives: in Greek "barbarians," in the sense of those who did not speak Greek, but with no implication of savagery; in the essentials of civilization many isolated peoples of that time surpassed the degenerate Greeks and Romans.  Malta is about sixty miles south of Sicily and was a part of the Province of Sicily.    4.  Justice: perhaps, as among the pagans, personified as a goddess presiding over justice.    6.  They were well acquainted with the natural effects of the bite of this poisonous viper.  As at Lystra (14, 7 ff), the wonder-worker is proclaimed a god.    7.  Head man: in Greek "the first," the official title of the one who ruled the island as representative of the praetor of Sicily; the title is found in inscriptions referring to Malta and is another proof of St. Luke's carefulness in details.    9.  St. Luke "the physician" shows marked interest in the cure of physical ailments in this section (3-9).  Miraculous power is implied in the specific cases, but the general term in v.9 may well mean that at least some were cured after being given medical treatment.

28, 11-16:  To Rome.    12 f.  Syracuse: the capital of Sicily.  Rhegium: on the "toe" of Italy.  Puteoli: in the bay of Naples, about one hundred forty miles from Rome.    15.  Two towns on the Via Appia, Market of Appius being about forty miles from Rome, and Three Taverns some ten miles nearer the city.  St. Paul was always highly appreciative of human kindness.    16.  He would have to stay in this lodging, and his wrist was chained to that of his guard who would naturally be changed frequently.  This freedom was granted to distinguished prisoners who were not considered dangerous.  Tiberius treated Herod Agrippa I in the same way.

28, 17-31:  At Rome.    17.  Not being guilty, he would have preferred a trial by the Jews; but as there was no hope of justice from them, he had been forced to appeal.  Before the Emperor he intends merely to prove his own innocence without bringing any charges against his nation.    20.  Hope of Israel: the Messias whom the Jews awaited and whom St. Paul proclaimed in Jesus.    21.  Distracted by national troubles and aware of the weakness of their case, the authorities at Jerusalem had sent no instructions to Rome regarding Paul, but the local Jews must have heard of his work in the Diaspora.

26 f.  These terrible words of Isaias had been used by our Lord in denouncing the disbelief of the Jews (Matt. 13, 14 ff).    31.  St. Luke closes on a note of triumph; St. Paul is free to preach to all who came to him.  These final words were evidently written at the end of the two years' imprisonment, but before the acquittal of St. Paul.  The Jews seem to have let the case go by default.  Many details of these two years in Rome are found in the "Epistles of the Captivity" (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon) which were written at this time and show that the Apostle expected to be released soon.

William A. Dowd, S.J.

Confraternity Bible:

Malta  1 After our escape we learned that the island was called Malta.  And the natives showed us no little kindness, 2 for they kindled a fire and refreshed us all because of the rain that had set in, and the cold.  3 Now Paul gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, when a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand.  4* When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, "Surely this man is a murderer, for though he has escaped the sea, Justice does not let him live."  5 But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.  6 Now they were expecting that he would swell up and suddenly fall down and die; but after waiting a long time and seeing no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.

7 Now in the vicinity there were estates belonging to the head man of the island, whose name was Publius, and he received us and entertained us hospitably for three days.  8 And it happened that the father of Publius was laid up with fever and dysentery; but Paul went in, and after praying and laying his hands on him, he healed him.  9 After this all the sick on the island came and were cured; 10 and they honored us with many marks of honor, and when we sailed, they provided us with such things as we needed.

To Rome  11* We set sail after three months in an Alexandrian ship with the Twins on her figurehead, which had wintered at the island.  12 We put in at Syracuse, and stayed three days.  13 Then, following the coast, we reached Rhegium; and one day later a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we arrived at Puteoli, 14 where we found brethren and were entreated to stay with them seven days; and so we came to Rome.  15 And the brethren there, having had news of us, came as far as the Market of Appius and the Three Taverns; and when Paul saw them, he gave thanks to God and took courage.  16 On our arrival at Rome, Paul was given permission to live by himself with a soldier to guard him.

At Rome  17 Three days later he called together the leading Jews, and when they had assembled he said to them, "Brethren, although I have done nothing against the people or against the customs of our fathers, yet I was handed over to the Romans as a prisoner from Jerusalem.  18 After examination they were ready to release me, since I was innocent of any crime that deserved death; 19 but as the Jew objected, I was forced to appeal to Caesar---not that I had any charge to bring against my nation.  This, then, is why I asked to see you and speak with you.  20 For it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain."  21 But they said to him, "We ourselves have received no letters about thee from Judea, and none of the brethren, upon arrival, has reported or spoken any evil of thee.  22 But we want to hear thee what thy views are; for as regards this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against."

23 So they fixed a day, and very many came to him at his lodging; and to them he explained the matter, bearing witness to the kingdom of God and trying from morning till evening to convince them concerning Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.  24 And some believed what was said; and some disbelieved; 25 and as they could not agree among themselves, they began to depart, when Paul added this one word: "Well did the Holy Spirit speak through Isaias the prophet to our fathers, 26* saying,
'Go to this people and say:

With the ear you will hear and will not understand; and seeing you will see and will not perceive. 

27* For the heart of this people has been hardened, and with their ears they have been hard of hearing,

And their eyes they have closed;

Lest perhaps they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart,

And be converted, and I heal them.' 
28 Be it known to you therefore that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen to it."  [29 When he had said this, the Jews departed, having much argument among themselves.]

30 And for two full years he remained in his own hired lodging; and he welcomed all who came to him, 31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and unhindered.  Amen.


4: Justice: or Vengeance, as pursuing criminals, was a familiar goddess among Greeks and Romans.

11: The Twins: on its prow the ship carried the images of Castor and Pollux, the patrons of sailors.

26-27: Isa. 6, 9-10.