CONVERSION OF SAUL (9:1-31)
CONVERSION OF CORNELIUS (10:1-11:18)
EARLY HISTORY OF THE CHURCH AT ANTIOCH (11:19-30)
PERSECUTION UNDER HEROD (12:1-25)
This section is clearly the continuation of 8:3 and may come from the same Antiochene source. Harnack, however, assigns it to a special "Pauline source," while Lake thinks that ch. 9, which by giving prominence to Ananias seems to belittle the independence of Paul's apostleship, possibly "partially represents the tradition of Jerusalem as to the conversion of Paul" (Beginnings of Christianity, II, 153).
Saul was a native of Tarsus (21:39), a city important both as a commercial center and as the seat of a famous university. He was of pure Israelite descent and proud of it (II Cor. 11:22; Phil. 3:4-6). At the same time he was by birth a Roman citizen (22:28); and as Tarsus did not possess the civitas, the probability is that his father had obtained the citizenship as a freedman client of some Roman family, possibly the Aemilian house of which "Paul," adopted by Saul as his second name, was a cognomen. The family would be of some distinction and probably fairly well-to-do. By education and upbringing Saul would certainly be bilingual. It is likely that he was first educated at the university in Tarsus, but it is doubtful whether he would be allowed to absorb much purely Greek culture; for later he was sent to study at Jerusalem in the schools of the rabbis, about whom Josephus says that "the only wisdom they prize is a knowledge of our laws and the correct interpretation of the Scriptures." Definite allusions by Paul to classical writers are found only in the speeches of Acts and in passages in the epistles of doubtful authenticity (e.g., Acts 17:28; Tit. 1:12). In Jerusalem his chief mentor was Gamaliel, by whom he was "educated according to the strict manner of the law" (22:3), though, to judge by Gamaliel's attitude to the Christians in 5:34 ff., the teacher can have been marked by little of his pupil's fanaticism. Saul, like Stephen, should probably be ranked as a "Hellenist" Jew, for the accusers of Stephen appear to have been chiefly "Hellenists," and if we are right in identifying Saul closely with them as a member of the synagogue of "those from Cilicia and Asia" (6:9), the inference is that he too be longed to the same class. But he was certainly an "orthodox" rather than a "liberal" Hellenist. His dual character as a Jew speaking the language of Jerusalem and a Roman citizen speaking fluent Greek perfectly fitted him to act as the great missionary mediator between Israel and the empire.
1. THE CONVERSION ITSELF (9:1-19)
After Stephen's death Saul set out to instigate persecution at Damascus, and on the way occurred the event which changed him suddenly from the fiercest enemy of the faith to its foremost apostle. Paul refers four times in his epistles to his conversion experience (Gal. 1:15-16; I Cor. 9:1; 15:8; II Cor. 4:6). From these passages it is clear that he was convinced that the vision had a truly objective reality. He had "seen Jesus our Lord" (I Cor. 9:1) just as truly as had the original disciples. There was for Paul no distinction in kind between the appearance of Christ to himself at his conversion and the appearances to the eleven before the Ascension. Yet at the same time he thought of the vision as an inward revelation. God had been pleased "to reveal his Son in me" (Gal. 1:15). He had had the first of those mystical experiences in which he held communion with the indwelling Christ.
There are three accounts in Acts of Saul's conversion--the present passage; 22:4 ff., in Paul's speech to the crowd at Jerusalem; 26:12 ff., in Paul's defense before Agrippa. In the descriptions of the vision there are minor discrepancies. In 9:7 Saul's companions "stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one"; in 22:9 they "saw the light but did not hear the voice"; while in 26:13-14 there was "a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining round me and those who journeyed with me," but apparently Saul alone "heard a voice." Much more important is the divergence as to how the call to the apostleship of the Gentiles was given to Saul. In 26:16 ff. the commission is given directly to Saul by the risen Christ himself; in 22:21 it is connected with a later vision during a trance in the temple; while in ch. 9 no definite call is given to Saul himself, who is merely told to go to Damascus, where he will receive instructions (vs. 6), while the announcement about Saul's promised mission is made, not to Saul, but to Ananias (vs. 15). In spite of these discrepancies the verbal agreements between the three accounts are such that they are generally considered to be interdependent. Perhaps that in ch. 26, which can be harmonized more easily with Paul's own account in Galatians, approximates most nearly the story in Luke's source, and constitutes the original out of which he has built up the other two accounts in chs. 9 and 22. The most important addition in chs. 9 and 22 is the part played by Ananias. Paul makes no reference to him in Galatians, and his part as intermediary is very difficult to reconcile with Paul's claim that he was an apostle "not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ" (Gal. 1:1). As Lake remarks, "The story of Ananias, as told in Acts ix, seems to be exactly the kind of story against which Paul protests in his epistles" (Beginnings of Christianity, II, 153). Yet a fair case can be made for the substantial truth of Luke's account. Though he may possibly have attributed too much importance to Ananias in Saul's conversion, the latter, on the other hand, in Galatians may well have been tempted to exaggerate his independence of all human instruction, as his chief concern there is to prove that his gospel as preached to the Gentiles is his very own. In the heat of this defense of his independence he may have underestimated the part played by Ananias, apart from whose counsel his conversion might never have been confirmed.
9:2. According to I Macc. 15:15, the Romans had granted to the high priest the right of extraditing to Jerusalem Jewish malefactors who had fled abroad. This would cover the case of Christians from Jerusalem who had taken refuge in Damascus, and the reference here is probably to such rather than to residents of Damascus. The Way was apparently one of the earliest names in Greek for the primitive Christian community (cf. "this Life," 5:20); it occurs six times in Acts, curiously always in passages relating to Paul (9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22). Lake and Cadbury argue that there is no evidence that it represents an Aramaic name, though in rabbinical literature dérekh ("way") is used in the sense of "customs" or "manner of life." Perhaps the word suggests that to their opponents the new Christian "heresy" appeared as a matter of practice rather than of opinion.
4. Saul: Here Saou6l, the Semitic spelling, which is found only here, in vs. 17 below, and in the parallel passages in 22:7 and 26:14 (also in 13:21 of King Saul). According to 26:14, the voice was "in the Hebrew language." Elsewhere the Greek spelling Sau'lov is used (cf. 9:1; etc.).
10-11. A disciple ... Ananias: In 22:12--significantly in a speech to the Jews--Ananias is called "a devout man according to the law"; but he may well have been a Christian "disciple" as well as a loyal Jew, as indeed seems implied by 22:14. If so, he may have been either one of the refugees from Jerusalem, or one of a group of Damascus Jews who had already become Christians. In the house of Judas: For the precise directions cf. 10:6--also in a vision. Is this evidence of a firsthand tradition? Or should we say with Lake and Cadbury that "part of the miraculous motif in such visions is the divine communication of details"?
13. Saints: The common word in Paul's letters for "Christians," but in Acts used only in this chapter (vss. 13, 32, 41) and in the parallel in 26:10.
15. Chosen instrument (skeu'ov ejklogh'v): cf. Rom. 9:22, "vessels of wrath" (skeu6h ojrgh'v)
17. Brother Saul practically means "fellow Christian," and again reminds one that Ananias was a Christian. The Lord Jesus: Note again (cf. on vs. 10) how in Paul's speech to the Jews in 22:14 Ananias speaks in the language of a good Jew. He comes to Saul with a message from "the God of our fathers," and Jesus is called, not "Lord," but "the Just One." As this was probably the earliest title given to Jesus, it may be that the account in ch. 22 has been less extensively edited than the parallel version in ch. 9.
18. Something like scales: Not necessarily anything physical, but a vivid way describing the sense of returning sight. Regained his sight ... was baptized. It is interesting that baptism itself is often called fwtismo6v--"illumination." Thus is fulfilled the promise of the previous verse that Saul should "regain [his] sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." The gift of the Spirit is brought into the closest connection with baptism.
2. THE IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH (9:20-31)
For the events following Saul's conversion, Acts must be checked by the apostle's own account in Gal. 1:15-24. There are a number of perplexing discrepancies:
(a) Paul states that immediately after his conversion he "went away into Arabia" (Gal. 1:17). Acts says nothing of this and states that in the synagogues immediately he proclaimed Jesus. Here it must be confessed that Luke's account is both historically and psychologically improbable. If the Jewish authorities in Damascus indeed had authority to hand over Christians to an emissary from Jerusalem, they would hardly have allowed that emissary, turned renegade, to preach the faith he came to persecute. Paul himself, too, is much more likely to have sought a quiet breathing space in "Arabia." Like Augustine after his conversion, he went into retreat and "found rest in God from the turmoil of the world."
(b) A more important problem is how to reconcile the two accounts of Paul's first visit to Jerusalem. The following difficulties emerge: (i) Whereas Paul says that it was "after three years" that he went up to Jerusalem, Luke compresses this period and writes when many days had passed--iJkanai6, "an adequate number"--not suggesting any very long period. (ii) Luke states that Paul attempted to join the disciples and that, failing a welcome, Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles. In Galatians Paul states on his oath that he saw none of the apostles save Peter and James the Lord's brother, and that he was in Jerusalem for only fifteen days, and then incognito, being "still not known by sight to the churches of Christ in Judea" (Gal. 1:22). Nothing is said of the fact that Barnabas introduced him. (iii) Luke pictures Paul at Jerusalem preaching boldly in the name of the Lord--a course which, as in Damascus, is not only historically and psychologically unlikely, but also obviously contradicts the impression left by Galatians.
(c) As to Paul's subsequent movements, Acts takes him by way of Caesarea to Tarsus in Cilicia, and in Gal. 1:21 Paul says "I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia." After this we find him in the company of Barnabas at Antioch, whence Barnabas had gone to bring Paul from Tarsus (11:25-26). If the "fourteen years" of Gal 2:1 is correct, Paul must have spent a very considerable period of time, presumably at Tarsus, about which we know nothing, before Barnabas chose him as his colleague at Antioch. Again Paul, intent upon emphasizing his independence, says nothing about his association with Barnabas during this period. But Gal. 2:13 mentions the presence of Barnabas at Antioch, and it is entirely likely that, as Acts 11:26 states, they worked for a year together there before the "famine visit" to Jerusalem (11:30), and their subsequent setting out from Antioch on the first tour (13:4). For the chronology see on 11:30.
Where there is divergence, the Galatian epistle, as our primary authority, must generally speaking be preferred to Acts. The discrepancies suggest that for the early period of Paul's career Luke had no detailed knowledge of events, and filled in his picture in somewhat general terms. It may be that the circumstances of a later visit to Jerusalem have been incorrectly assigned to this first one. We must remember, however, that in Galatians Paul is particularly concerned to stress the immediacy and independence of his apostleship, while Luke throughout wishes to suggest that from the very first there was concord between Paul and the twelve. It is likely that both accounts, but especially Luke's, are unconsciously colored by the respective ends they have in view.
20. Son of God, as a title of Jesus, is used only here in Acts, and significantly it appears here on the lips of Paul, who frequently uses it in his epistles. It was commonly used by the Jews of Messiah (Pss. 2:7; 89:26); and Peter (Matthew 16:16) acknowledges Jesus as "the Christ, the Son of the living God." Here the force of the phrase is still mainly messianic; and it does not, of course, yet convey the full idea that Jesus is "God the Son" in the sense, e.g., of the Nicene Creed.
21. Made havoc: In Gal. 1:13 Paul uses the same Greek word to describe his persecution of the church--"perhaps the nearest approach that there is to verbal evidence of literary dependence of Acts on the Pauline Epistles" (Lake and Cadbury, Beginnings of Christianity, IV, 105; cf. 7:53).
23-25. Paul's own account of this incident in II Cor. 11:32 ff. suggests that he was trying to elude, not a plot against him by the Jews within the city, but the watchfulness of "the ethnarch of King Aretas"--the Nabatean Arab king of Petra--who was presumably "guarding the city" to catch Paul as he came out. Are we to suppose that the Jews had enlisted the help of Aretas against Paul? In that case the ethnarch may have been his representative or consul within the city. Or was Aretas himself hostile to Paul, on account perhaps of his activities in "Arabia"?
30. To Tarsus: Presumably by sea, though Gal. 1:21 ("I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia") is thought by some to imply a route overland through Syria.
31. Another characteristic summary. The Western text is here defective, but the Antiochene text, which often preserves the Western reading, has "churches" in place of "church." If church is the correct reading, this is the best example in Acts of the catholic meaning of the word (see on 5:11). Walking (poreuome6nh): Torrey suggests that this may represent the idiomatic use of the Hebrew hAlakh ("walk"), which indicates that the action of the accompanying verb is continuous. The sense then would be, "and it was continuously multiplied."
F. THE FIRST MISSIONS TO GENTILES (9:32-11:30)
1. PETER'S PRELIMINARY MISSION (9:32-43)
The transition here is abrupt, and the phrase as Peter went here and there among them all is even vaguer in the Greek than in the English. According to Harnack, Luke is drawing again upon the Jerusalem-Caesarean source, the interest of the section up to 11:18 being concentrated on Peter's conversion of the Caesarean Cornelius and his defense of his action at Jerusalem. In that case 9:32 ff. may pick up the story of Peter where it was broken off at 8:25, and among them all may refer to the "many villages of the Samaritans" mentioned in that verse. A still more attractive suggestion is that the events of ch. 12 have been misplaced, and that chronologically 12:1-17 (also from the Jerusalem-Caesarean source) should precede 9:32 ff. (See on ch. 12.) In 12:17 we read that Peter, after his escape from prison, "departed and went to another place." This would lead up well to the equally vague statement in 9:32 that he went here and there among them all. At the moment Peter was a fugitive and had no fixed place of abode.
The narrative, like the story of Peter and John's visit to Samaria (8:14-25), reads like the account of an episcopal tour. "One would say," writes Alfred Loisy, "that the head of the episcopal bench comes to give his recognition and sanction to the results achieved by the zeal of believers whom the persecution of Stephen has scattered towards the coast of Palestine" (Les Actes des Apôtres [Paris: Êmile Nourry, 1920], p. 428). Again, the miracles in this section have been considered somewhat suspect because they are so obviously parallel with certain prominent miracles both in the Gospels and in the O.T. The healing of Aeneas recalls Jesus' cure of the paralytic (Luke 5:18-26), and the story of Dorcas closely resembles that of the raising of Jairus' daughter (Luke 8:41-42, 49-56), and also awakens echoes of the miracles of Elijah and Elisha (cf. I Kings 17:17 ff.; II Kings 4:32 ff.). Without questioning the general trustworthiness of the narrative, we may admit that it is part of Luke's purpose to show how in the cures of Peter the miraculous activity of Jesus is still being carried on.
32. Lydda, between Jerusalem and Joppa, was famous for purple-dyed materials, and after the destruction of Jerusalem it became also a center of rabbinical learning.
34. Make your bed: Cf. Luke 5:24, "take up your bed"; alternatively, "spread your couch," i.e., with a view to eating; for which cf. Luke 8:55 (of Jairus' daughter), "He directed that something should be given her to eat."
35. Sharon is a transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning "the coastal plain."
36. Joppa: The modern Jaffa and the port of Jerusalem. Tabitha is Aramaic for "gazelle," for which the Greek word is "Dorcas." The only way to bring out the point in English translation is to give both the Greek and the English interpretation as in RSV.
39. Widows: Possibly there as nurses and as professional mourners--a part they certainly played at a later date--but more probably simply as Dorcas' beneficiaries.
41. Saints and widows: Though "saints" is the all-inclusive word for "Christians," we need hardly suppose that the widows were not Christians.
43. A tanner: Hardly a suitable lodging for a scrupulous Jew, but it is not likely that Luke is consciously hinting that Peter was becoming more liberal. "A psychologist might think that lodging in so questionable a house may have turned Peter's mind to the problem of clean and unclean foods, which is raised in the next chapter" (Lake and Cadbury, Beginnings of Christianity, IV, 111-12).
2. CONVERSION OF CORNELIUS (10:1-11:18)
As has already been indicated (p. 129, above), it is possible that the account of Peter's escape from prison (12:1-17) has been chronologically misplaced and ought to precede the story of the conversion of Cornelius. It was only after the revolt which followed Herod Agrippa's death (12:20 ff.) that a Roman garrison was established at Caesarea, where Cornelius appears to have been stationed. A consequence of this rearrangement of the sequence of events would be that Peter's activities at Lydda, Joppa, and Caesarea would be taking place during much the same period as the early mission work of Paul and Barnabas at Antioch, and all three would return to Jerusalem to give account of their missions at approximately the same time. For the whole sequence of events see on 12:17.
Luke evidently regards the conversion of Cornelius as an event of supreme importance. He even adopts the literary device, common in epic writing, of twice reporting every detail in the story. Everything that the narrator tells in 10:9 ff. is repeated by Peter in his defense in 11:4 ff.; while the vision of the centurion in 10:3 ff. is described again by Cornelius himself, on Peter's arrival at Caesarea, in 10:30 ff. Such stress can be put on the incident only because Luke regards it as the first case of the admission to baptism of an uncircumcised pagan; and the initiative in this new departure is ascribed, not to Paul, but to Peter. On this account radical scholars summarily dismiss the incident as unhistorical, and use it as one of the chief arguments against the Lukan authorship of Acts. The visions and angelic appearances, it is alleged, give the whole story a legendary coloring. Had Peter been enlightened in so unmistakable a manner about the lack of distinction between clean and unclean food, he could hardly have been guilty at Antioch of the equivocal conduct described in Gal. 2:11-13. Such a vision and the experience that followed it must have been regarded as conferring on Peter not only the right but the duty to evangelize Gentiles, and Peter, rather than Paul, would have to be considered as God's chosen instrument for the pioneering missionary work among pagans. If the whole question of the legitimacy of admitting Gentiles had already been settled in the case of Cornelius (11:18), the later discussions at Jerusalem (Gal. 2:1; Acts 15:1) could never have taken place. On the contrary 11:20 appears to record the first genuine case of preaching to Gentile Greeks, and it cannot have been anticipated by this incident. Finally, a motive for the insertion of this "legend" is ready to hand: From 15:7-9 it is clear that our author actually did think it important to show that it was not Paul but Peter who was the pioneer of Gentile missions. This assumption is the reverse side of his overemphasis upon the Judaistic aspect of Paul (e.g., the circumcision of Timothy in 16:1-3, and his compliance with James in the matter of fulfilling temple vows in 21:17 ff.)--both being due to his desire to gloss over any suggestion of conflict between the Pauline and Petrine parties within the church.
The incident undoubtedly raises difficulties, though they would be lessened by the chronological arrangement suggested above (see again on 12:17). Cornelius was presumably a "God-fearer" (10:2), i.e., an adherent of Judaism who did not accept the conditions of proselytism. But as he was of Gentile birth and not even a proselyte, his admission to baptism without circumcision was a new departure and violated the principles which had hitherto controlled the extension of the church. The question is whether such official action by Peter, and its confirmation by the apostles at Jerusalem, can be reconciled with the future course of events as revealed by Galatians and Acts. Many scholars hold that the proceedings of the "apostolic council" (Gal. 2:1; Acts 15:1) imply that the legitimacy of Gentile missions had never been before the mother church, and that it was the arguments of Paul that first induced the apostles to give their sanction to the new development.
In reply it can be argued that the council at Jerusalem took place at least ten years after Paul's conversion; for a large part of that time Paul presumably had been preaching to Gentiles (Gal. 1:16); and it is scarcely credible that the church at Jerusalem can have been unaware of what he was doing, or that the question of the legitimacy of such a Gentile mission did not occur to its leaders. Indeed Gal. 1:24 ("they glorified God because of me") claims that they actually approved. Moreover Galatians suggests that the new factor which precipitated the trouble later at Jerusalem was not the preaching to Gentiles for the first time, but the renewed question of its legitimacy. The "false brethren" (Gal. 2:4) apparently had come only recently into the limelight, and did not represent the hitherto prevailing attitude of the Jerusalem church. Thus the fact that the legitimacy of Gentile Christianity was re-examined at the council is no proof that it was not at least tacitly recognized at an earlier date; and such recognition may well have been given first as a result of just such an event as the conversion of Cornelius.
It is often objected that the incident robs Paul of his originality as the Apostle to the Gentiles, and that his reference to Peter in Gal. 2:8 as the apostle to the circumcision proves that Peter cannot have preached to Gentiles. But even a notable exception does not make Peter the Apostle to the Gentiles. Nor on the other hand does Paul ever claim that he was the first to preach to Gentiles. His sense of independence and originality sprang not from that but from his conviction that he was called directly by Christ to do for the Gentiles what others were doing in the main for the Jews. The fact that Paul calls Peter the apostle to the circumcision no more proves that Peter never preached to Gentiles than does Paul's claim to be the Apostle to the Gentiles prove that he never preached to Jews; we know in fact that he often did so (I Cor. 9:20).
Peter's behavior toward Cornelius is entirely in line with his impulsive nature, and shows the same uncalculating spirit that later led him to throw aside traditional scruples and live in intimate fellowship with Gentiles at Antioch (Gal. 2:12). But if the story of Cornelius is indeed historical, how are we to explain Peter's subsequent change of front when "he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party"? If the circle around James had sanctioned Peter's conduct with Cornelius at Caesarea, they could, it is argued, hardly have found fault with him for doing the same thing at Antioch; nor could Peter have been so vacillating as thus to disown the crucial step he had taken when he admitted Cornelius to fellowship. This objection rests on a misunderstanding which, it must be confessed, is due partly to Luke himself, who seems throughout to be confusing two distinct questions--social intercourse between Jews and Gentiles, and the admission of Gentiles to the Christian community. In Acts 11:3 the disciples at Jerusalem are represented as criticizing Peter for having held tablefellowship with non-Jews, and it is to this question that Peter's vision on the housetop appears to be related (cf. also 10:28). But the question to which Peter's defense is successfully directed is the admission of Gentiles to Christian baptism--a very different matter. Note too that at 11:18 the church "glorifies God," not because the social barriers between Jew and Gentile have been broken down, but because "to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance unto life." In other words, in the conversion of Cornelius the Jerusalem church recognized what, after renewed criticism by the "false brethren," they reaffirmed at the council--the legitimacy of Gentile Christianity. But they did not yet admit the right of a Jew to disregard the social prohibitions of the Jewish law. Luke may not have clearly realized the distinction between these two steps; hence he too, like modern critics, may have been so puzzled by Peter's vacillation at Antioch that he omitted the incident altogether from his narrative. A clearer perspective may not perhaps excuse Peter's conduct, but it at least makes it understandable.
Our conclusion, then, is that however we may question certain details in Luke's story, there is no reason to doubt that, in the person of Cornelius, Peter admitted the first Gentile, and that the legitimacy of his action was acknowledged by the Jerusalem church. Streeter, after discussing the incident, concludes that "the fundamental fallacy of histories of the Apostolic age inspired by the Tübingen school was the tacit assumption that Gentile Christianity was of one single type, and that that type was the creation of Paul" (The Primitive Church, p. 48). One wishes, that the editors of The Beginnings of Christianity had given more heed to their own admission that "it is one of the mistakes of the Tübingen School that it did not recognize that Peter, not only in Acts but also in the Pauline Epistles, is on the Hellenistic, not on the Hebrew side" (Vol. I, p. 312).
10:1-2. Caesarea was at the time the Roman capital of the province of Judea and as such a garrison town. The Italian Cohort is probably the Cohors II ltalica Civium Romanorum, which was a corps composed of freedmen from Italy and is known to have been stationed in Syria by A.D. 69. The fact that Cornelius' household was also at Caesarea suggests that he may have retired and settled there. Who feared God (fobou6menov to;n qeo6n): A phrase commonly held to be a description of Gentiles who had accepted the truth of the Jewish religion and had become loose adherents of the synagogue, without going the length of being circumcised and becoming full proselytes. That the phrase was often so used is certain--other possible examples in Acts are 13:16, 26. But it is doubtful whether it can be considered a technical designation of a clearly defined group--the non-Jewish fringe attending the synagogues--parallel to Jews and proselytes, or whether it could not also be used on occasion as an honorable epithet of any devout worshiper of God--Jew, proselyte, or Gentile, as the context may decide. An alternative expression is sebo6menov (to;n qeo6n), usually translated "devout," for which see 13:43, 50; 16:14; 17:4, 17; 18:7. (See note, Beginnings of Christianity, V, 84 ff.) The people, i.e., "the Jewish people"--almost a technical use of oJ lao6v, in contrast to ta; e[qnh, the nations or Gentiles.
4. As a memorial: Scripture regularly compares prayer and alms with sacrifice (Ps. 141:2; Phil. 4:18). In the LXX this same Greek word is used of the part of the meat offering that was burned (Lev. 2:1).
7. Those that waited on him: As we would say, "his orderlies."
9. About the sixth hour, i.e., noon, and not a usual hour for prayer, as were the third and the ninth (see 2:15; 10:3, 30). But all the hours mentioned in the N.T. are multiples of three--third, sixth, ninth--and it is possible that the four quarters of the day were used to mark the approximate time.
11. Something descending: The Greek word means any vessel, implement, or object; it is used even of the human body (I Pet. 3:7; I Thess. 4:4).
15. What God has cleansed: Presumably by the command to eat. Or have we an echo of Mark 7:14-23, where Mark's comment on Jesus' teaching is that "thus he declared all foods clean" (RSV)?
19. The Spirit becomes "I" in the next verse and is probably thought of as identical with Jesus. Previously (vss. 13-15) Peter has addressed "the voice" as "Lord." And does Luke intend to distinguish between the "angel" who spoke to Cornelius (vs. 3) and the "Spirit" who spoke to Peter? (See on 8:26.)
25. The Western text is very vivid here: "And as Peter was coming near to Caesarea one of the slaves ran ahead and announced that he had arrived. And Cornelius jumped up and met him."
28. Unlawful (ajqe6miton); cf. I Pet. 4:3, "lawless idolatry." "The word means contrary to qe6miv, the divinely constituted order of things, breaking a taboo" (Lake and Cadbury, Beginnings of Christianity, IV, 117). "Something which is not done" gives the feel of the word, though our expression has not the religious nuance of the Greek word.
34. Peter's speech to Cornelius and his associates follows the same lines as do the other Petrine speeches, the emphasis being on the judicial murder of Jesus by the Jews and on the Resurrection, which vindicates his claims. But this message is now, whether by Peter himself or more probably by Luke, skillfully adapted to a Gentile audience. The catholic relationship of God to the righteous of all nations alike is stressed, and Jesus is no longer, as in 2:36, the Jewish "Lord and Christ," but Lord of all (vs. 36). The fulfillment of purely national messianic expectation falls into the background, and Jesus is presented not only as "Christ," but as judge of the living and the dead (vs. 42). God shows no partiality: Literally "God is not an accepter of faces"; cf. I Pet. 1:17, "who judges each one impartially."
36-38. The Greek is very clumsy, but the RSV gives a perfectly satisfactory rendering: rJh'ma simply picks up lo6gon both being governed by oi[date, while !Ihsou'n ... qeo;v must be regarded simply as an awkward periphrasis for wJv e[crisen !Ihsou'n oJ qeo6v. For the curious adverbial use of ajrxa6menov, the nominative apparently being outside the construction of the sentence, cf. Luke 24:47; see also Luke 23:5; Acts 1:22. Anointed, i.e., "made Christ," "made Messiah"; cf. 4:27. Does this refer to the baptism of Jesus, with the implication that it was only then that he became Messiah? Elsewhere (e.g., 2:36, with which cf. Rom. 1:4) it seems to be suggested that it is in virtue of his resurrection that Jesus is Messiah. But would not Luke himself think of him as Messiah by birth, having been "conceived by the Holy Spirit"? Probably the verse should be taken in a more general sense as an echo of Isa. 60:1, applied by Jesus to himself in Luke 4:18. Oppressed by the devil: All Jesus' miracles and mighty works are regarded in the Gospels and Acts as triumphs over the demonic powers; cf. especially Luke 10:18, where, at the return of the seventy, after hearing the report of their cures in his name, Jesus cries out, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven."
39. On a tree: It is interesting that the same word is used for the cross in I Pet. 2:24, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree"; cf. also 5:30, again on Peter's lips.
41. Witnesses: The supreme qualification of an apostle; cf. 1:8, 22; Luke 24:48. The reference to eating and drinking is no doubt to meet the objection that the risen Jesus was merely a "ghost"; cf. Luke 24:39 ff.
42. Ordained by God to be judge, i.e., to undertake the supreme function traditionally delegated to him as the "Son of man," whom the book of Enoch, e.g., constantly pictures as judge; cf. I Pet. 4:5, "They will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead," and II Tim. 4:1, "Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead." See 17:31 for another periphrasis for the title "Son of man," which is avoided in Acts--except at 7:56, which is an echo of Luke 22:69--as likely to be unintelligible to Hellenistic readers.
43. Forgiveness of sins, cf. Luke 24:46-47. This idea is greatly emphasized in Acts. Peter's speech in 2:38 claims that the messianic promises are fulfilled by the gift of the Spirit and the forgiveness of sins; and in Paul's speeches the climax to which everything leads up is the forgiveness of sins (see 13:38; 26:18).
44. The word: Not merely Peter's speech, but the gospel message.
48. To be baptized: Does the passive imply that Peter delegated the act of baptism to an assistant? Also cf. Paul's words, "Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel" (I Cor. 1:17). In the name of Jesus Christ: The most primitive formula (cf. 8:16; 19:5) later displaced by the trinitarian formula (Matthew 28:19).
The account of Cornelius' baptism is interesting as combining the primitive point of view, according to which the gift of the Spirit takes the place of water-baptism, and the intermediate position that baptism is at least a necessary condition of admission to the church (see on 2:37). As at Pentecost, the Spirit is given independently of baptism: "While Peter was still saying this [i.e., before there is any mention of baptism] the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word" (10:44). But by the time Luke wrote, baptism was a universally practiced initiatory rite, and so we read here that Peter commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Indeed, Lake suspects that the mention of baptism is due to the writer's preconception that Cornelius must have been baptized before admission to the Christian fellowship. Neither in Peter's own account of the incident (11:15-18) nor in his reference to it at the Jerusalem conference (15:7-9) is there any mention of baptism. When replying to the charge of having treated these Gentiles as members of the fellowship (11:3), Peter insists that in the gift of the Spirit they had already received from God all the authentication that was necessary (11:17). More significantly still, he points his argument by quoting the words "John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit" (11:16). As Lake pertinently asks: "What would have been the point of this quotation if the true end of the story had been, 'So I baptized Cornelius in water'?" (Beginnings of Christianity, I, 341.)
11:1-2. The narrative which follows seems to imply that the church challenged Peter's action and recalled him to Jerusalem to justify it. The Western text, possibly in order to remove this impression, freely rewrites: "So Peter after some time wished to go to Jerusalem ... and he met them [i.e., the leaders at Jerusalem] and reported to them the grace of God. But the brethren of the circumcision disputed with him. ..."
3. The same criticism had been leveled at Jesus himself (Luke 15:2; 19:7).
12. Without hesitation: The Greek properly means "making no distinction" (i.e., between Jew and Gentile); cf. 15:9, where with reference to this same incident we read, "He [God] made no distinction between us and them." In the parallel passage in 10:20 the Greek verb is in the middle voice and is rightly translated "without hesitation," an idea which is picked up in 10:29, "I came without objection." Six brethren: A new detail, not given in ch. 10, but apparently referring to "some of the brethren from Joppa" (10:23) and "the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter" (10:45).
15-16. At the beginning, i.e., at Pentecost. I remembered: For the formula cf. 20:35, "remembering the words of the Lord Jesus. ... " In the Gospels this saying about baptism is regularly attributed, not to Jesus, but to John the Baptist (Mark 1:8 and parallels). In Acts 1:5 also the words are put on Jesus' lips.
18. They glorified God: Probably in the simple sense of praising God for his great works (cf. 21:20). But the phrase may carry the technical Jewish sense of admitting a previous error, for which cf. John 9:24, "Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner." Also cf. Josh. 7:19; Rev. 16:9. This would fit in well with the preceding phrase they were silenced; and the meaning would be that they withdrew their objections to Peter's conduct.
3. EARLY HISTORY OF THE CHURCH AT ANTIOCH (11:19-30)
This section is clearly a continuation of 8:4, the words those who were scattered (vs. 19) being intended to pick up "those who were scattered went about preaching the word" (8:4). Luke is presumably basing his narrative again on the Antiochene source, for now he takes up once again the story of the church at Antioch. Just as Philip preached to the Samaritans and had his work confirmed by Peter and John (8:14-17), and the conversion of Cornelius at Caesarea by Peter was approved by the Jerusalem church (11:18), so now at Antioch a larger Gentile mission is undertaken and is subsequently investigated and blessed by Barnabas (11:22-24). Luke is concerned to show that at each stage of the rapidly expanding Christian mission the innovators carried with them the consent of the mother church.
a) FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH (11:19-21)
The new developments noted in these verses are of epoch-making importance, and they are described with a sobriety, not to say casualness, that contrasts strongly with the highly dramatized story of Cornelius. As Johannes Weiss well says: "The interesting thing about this statement is that the transition to the Gentile mission does not appear here as the result of conscious deliberations and solemn decisions but as an obvious extension of the work, which must have seemed quite natural to these men who had grown up in a Greek environment. And that is at the same time a genuinely historical conception of the course of events, for the great innovations in the life of the spirit are usually brought about in such a way that their first beginnings arrive quietly and imperceptibly, so that when the world becomes aware of them, it is already face to face with accomplished facts"(The History of Primitive Christianity [ed. F. C. Grant; London: Macmillan & Co.; New York: Wilson-Erickson, 1937], I, 171-72).
The chief significance of vs. 20 lies in the assertion that the momentous step of preaching to pagans was taken independently of Paul. Not that we should conclude from this that Paul was forestalled, and that in his Gentile missions he was merely following an example set by Antioch. He was probably already at work himself along similar lines in Syria and Cilicia (Gal. 1:21). It is in fact entirely likely that the initiative was taken in various places by various individuals more or less simultaneously. But the ultimate preponderating importance of Paul's work, the fact that his letters bulk so large in the N.T., while Luke has given to the second part of Acts the form of a history of Pauline Gentile missions--all this has thrown into the shade the early non-Pauline missions to pagans. Yet it is a mistake to regard Paul as the sole founder of Greek Christianity. As Wilhelm Bousset reminds us: "Between Paul and the Palestinian primitive church stand the Hellenistic churches in Antioch, Damascus, Tarsus. ... In any case the development of the Apostle's life took place on the foundation of the Hellenistic churches" (Kyrios Christos [Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1926], pp. 75-76). Quite apart from Paul's pioneering it is impossible to say how soon and how far work among Hellenistic Jews would begin to touch pure Gentile Greeks.
This, of course, is the problem raised by the crucial words in vs. 20, some of them ... spoke to the Greeks also. For the distinction between "Hellenes" and "Hellenists" see on 6:1. Though the best-attested reading here is undoubtedly "Hellenists" (@Ellhnista;v with a B), the pointed contrast with to none except Jews makes it certain that the reference is to pure Greeks and not to "Grecizing Jews," and accordingly most editors adopt the reading "Hellenes" or "Greeks" ($Ellhnav with a2 A D). The confusion in the MSS is probably due simply to the fact that the distinctions between various classes within the church were soon forgotten; and after two or three hundred years the difference between a "Hellene" and a "Hellenist," a "Greek" and a "Grecian," became as obscure and as unimportant as it is to the ordinary reader today. But in this particular passage it is just this distinction that gives point to the whole incident.
19. Antioch, on the Orontes, ranked as capital of the East, and was the seat of the imperial legate of the Roman province of Syria and Cilicia. It was, according to Josephus, the third city of the Roman Empire, second only to Rome and Alexandria. The mass of the population would be Syrian, with a large Jewish colony, but its culture was chiefly Greek. It was a very important center of commerce, its port being Seleucia (13:4). Some few miles distant was Daphne, the headquarters of the cult of Apollo and Artemis, and its Daphnici mores became so notorious that when Juvenal wishes to sum up in one line the moral degradation of Rome, the worst that he can say is that "the Syrian Orontes has flowed into the Tiber" (Satires III. 62). The center of gravity of Christianity rapidly passed from Jerusalem to Antioch. Tradition closely associates Peter with the city, naming him as its first bishop; and later illustrious names among its bishops are Ignatius and John Chrysostom.
20. Men of Cyprus and Cyrene: Note 13:1, where Lucius of Cyrene is mentioned with Barnabas of Cyprus (cf. 4:36) among the leaders of the Antioch church. It would be attractive to think of Barnabas as one of the group of early pioneers; but the fact that he was sent from Jerusalem to investigate tells against this, though he was perhaps sent because he was a compatriot of the missionaries. Preaching the Lord Jesus: Or perhaps, "preaching Jesus as the Lord"; for the "gospel" which they preached was in fact the "lordship" of Jesus.
21. The hand of the Lord, being a common O.T. phrase, probably refers to God's assistance, while turned to the Lord rather awkwardly gives the same title again to Jesus.
b) VISIT OF BARNABAS (11:22-24)
Barnabas (for whom see on 4:36), though not one of the twelve, here appears to be ranked as an apostle, for he undertakes the same function of confirmation that was previously performed by Peter and John after Philip's mission to Samaria (8:14-17). He was certainly a much more important figure in the early church than we are apt to realize, and was the leader in the movement which virtually resulted in the transference of the headquarters of the church from Jerusalem to Antioch. When he linked up with Paul, the latter occupied for a time a quite subordinate position; and indeed Paul's whole future work may have owed more than is commonly acknowledged to the encouragement of Barnabas, the "Son of encouragement." It is interesting that one who was a "Levite" (4:36), and presumably closely associated with the national cult, could detach himself so far from his Jewish connections as to identify himself so fully with the Hellenistic movement, even though later, on one famous occasion, his early prejudices reasserted themselves (Gal. 2:13).
The present mission of Barnabas to Antioch, as a representative of the Jerusalem church, is suspect to some scholars on the following grounds: (a) Barnabas is much more likely himself to have been one of the Cypriote pioneers (cf. 11:20); (b) in the sequel he appears, not as a representative of Jerusalem reporting on Antioch, but as a representative of Antioch acting as a delegate of his fellows in a mission to Jerusalem (11:30; 12:25); (c) the incident, like the mission of Peter and John to Samaria, merely illustrates the quite artificial "thesis" of our author that every new development must receive apostolic confirmation. But, as will be argued below, one of the main objects of the visit to Jerusalem mentioned in 11:30 was in fact to report back to Jerusalem on the situation at Antioch. Moreover Gal. 2:11-13, and the apostolic decrees mentioned in ch. 15, make it clear that the Jerusalem church did actually claim some oversight over the churches of Syria and Cilicia. There is therefore really no difficulty in supposing that Barnabas, who was already a prominent figure at Jerusalem, was sent to investigate the pioneering activities of his fellow Cypriotes.
22. They sent: Perhaps Luke is suggesting that Barnabas went in the role of an "apostle"; the wider use of this title is already becoming apparent (see on 1:12).
23-24. Grace ... glad (ca6rin ... ejca6rh): In the Greek there is a graceful play on the words impossible to reproduce in English (cf. Jas. 1:1-2). But is it intentional? With steadfast purpose, literally "with the purpose of their heart," an unusual expression which occurs elsewhere only in Symmachus' Greek translation of Ps. 10:17. Barnabas' personal qualities of goodness and faith are described as due to possession by the Spirit, as was Stephen's eloquence (6:10).
c) PAUL COMES TO ANTIOCH (11:25-26)
At this point we pick up again the thread of Paul's life. After his first visit to Jerusalem he had gone into the "regions of Syria and Cilicia" (Gal. 1:21); and he himself states that it was only "after fourteen years" (Gal. 2:1) that he again visited Jerusalem--the point which we reach at 11:30. Most of the time may well have been spent at Tarsus, whither Luke tells us he went immediately after his first visit to Jerusalem (9:30). From Acts one certainly does not gain the impression that anything like so long a period as fourteen years has elapsed between 9:30 and 11:30, and the "fourteen years" of Gal. 2:1 may possibly be a primitive scribal error for "four" (see note on p. 152). If the time was indeed as long as Galatians states, Paul may have been engaged in wider missionary activities of which we know nothing, and it may be that some of the events mentioned in the long catalogue of sufferings in II Cor. 11:23-27 must be fitted into this period. Certainly neither Gal. 1:21 nor Acts 9:30 necessarily implies that Paul never moved outside Syria and Cilicia. But all this is only speculation, for the truth is that neither from Acts nor from Paul's letters do we know anything certain about Paul's life during this intervening period before the so-called first missionary journey. But, as Weiss shrewdly points out, this silence of Acts has some bearing upon our judgment of its historical trustworthiness: "This phenomenon is of the highest importance in connection with the origin of the narratives of the Book of Acts. If they were fiction, based perhaps upon Galatians, we should certainly have had some stories about this period. Why could not the imaginative author of the Acta Pauli just as well have thought up something about his mission in Tarsus or in Gyrene as about the later period?" (History of Primitive Christianity [ed. F. C. Grant; London: Macmillan & Co.; New York: Wilson-Erickson, 1937], I, 205.) However Paul was occupied, these early years, of which we know absolutely nothing, must have been of supreme importance. In them Paul found himself and thought out the gospel which he purposed to proclaim. It was as no mere novice that he set out on his great tours; he was already a missionary of long and varied experience. "It cannot be too much insisted upon that the real development of Paul both as a Christian and as a theologian was completed in this period which is so obscure to us, and that in the letters we have to do with the fully matured man" (ibid., I, 206).
Barnabas now brings Paul from Tarsus to be his colleague at Antioch, where they spend a whole year together (vs. 26). In Galatians, Paul says nothing of this time spent with Barnabas at Antioch, for the reason no doubt that at the moment he is concerned chiefly with his contacts with the original apostles, and his silence has led to questions as to the historicity of Luke's notice. But we know from Gal. 2:11-13 that some four years later Paul and Barnabas were again at home together at Antioch, whither they had returned from the first missionary tour (14:26); and it is entirely reasonable to suppose that Paul may have first been brought there under the circumstances described in Acts, and may have labored there for a time before starting out on his tour with Barnabas.
25. To look for Saul: The turn of the sentence gives the impression, perhaps quite unintentionally, that our author thinks of Paul as not being at the moment prominently in the public eye.
26. They met with the church, or possibly, "they were entertained by the church"; the Greek word is the same as in Matthew 25:35, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me." Christians: In the N.T. the word occurs only here, in 26:28, and in I Pet. 4:16. The word has the usual Latin termination denoting "a partisan off"--as Herodian, Caesarian, Pompeiian--and shows that already the word "Christ" was in common use as a proper name. The intention of the folk of Antioch was doubtless to fasten on the disciples a kind of party designation as a nickname. Within the church the same termination later labeled various heretics--Basilidians, Valentinians, Arians. As the word "Christ," meaning "anointed" or Messiah, must have been unintelligible to Greek pagans, it is possible that the disciples were in fact first called "Chrestians"--Chrestus being a common enough Greek proper name, meaning "good." This seems to have been the view of Suetonius, who tells us that the Jews had made disturbances at Rome "at the instigation of Chrestus" (Claudius 25). Paul never uses the adjective, but uses in its place various adaptations of his favorite phrase "in Christ"--e.g., "I know a man in Christ" (II Cor. 12:2).
d) VISIT TO JERUSALEM AT THE TIME OF THE FAMINE (11:27-30)
This paragraph raises difficult problems both of history and of criticism. Barnabas and Paul are represented as visiting Jerusalem as the bearers of relief from the richer church at Antioch to the presumably poverty-stricken church of Judea--a mission which would mark a significant stage in the transference of the church's center of gravity from Jerusalem to Antioch. Critics doubt the historicity of this visit on the following grounds: (a) The alleged motive for the visit is to be dismissed, for no such prophecy as that of Agabus could possibly have been made. The reference to Agabus is itself a mere "doublet" of 21:10-11, where the same prophet intervenes at Caesarea on the eve of Paul's last visit to Jerusalem, when the latter was once again traveling as a "relief agent" and carrying the "collection" from the Gentile churches. (b) On the usual critical reconstruction there is no reference in Galatians to this visit, usually called the "famine visit." The visit described by Paul in Gal. 1:18-24 obviously corresponds with that of Acts 9:26-29. The second visit mentioned in Galatians (2:1-10) has been generally considered to be the same as that described at length in Acts 15:2-29--usually called the "council visit"--though the identification results in almost insoluble historical difficulties (see on ch. 15). Accordingly we have in the present passage mention of a visit to Jerusalem falling apparently between the two mentioned by Paul. Now Paul in Galatians is concerned to narrate his every movement, in particular his visits to Jerusalem, in order to prove that at no time did he come into such close contact with the original apostles as might invalidate his claim to have received his own apostolic commission directly from Jesus. His object is to prove that "the gospel which was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from man" (Gal. 1:11-12). Unless he is deliberately deceiving his readers, it is difficult to suppose that he paid another visit in the interval between the first visit and that to the council. In particular would it have been disingenuous to remain silent about an official visit to Jerusalem as a delegate from Antioch. Whether in fact he did or did not see the apostles, here was an opportunity to do so that might have been held up against him. If the visit did take place, then he must have mentioned it.
Various solutions of the puzzle have been propounded: (a) The whole incident can be explained as a vague reminiscence, or transposition, of the "great collection" undertaken later by Paul as a result of the demand made at the council that the Gentile churches should "remember the poor" (Gal. 2:10). (b) Paul may have been appointed to accompany Barnabas, but for some unexplained reason only Barnabas went. Luke, finding the appointment noted in his sources, drew the natural conclusion that Paul did in fact go. (c) The account of the "famine visit" here and that of the "council visit" in ch. 15 are "doublet" descriptions of the same visit, derived from different sources and narrated from different viewpoints. The author, it is suggested, found in his sources two independent accounts of the same journey, the one stressing the generosity of the Antioch church, the other concerned with the debate at Jerusalem on the question of the legitimacy of Gentile Christianity. The first may be held to reflect the attitude of Antioch, the second that of Jerusalem. Supposing these two accounts to refer to different events, the author inserted this first one in what seemed to him a convenient place. It might even be suggested that the mutilation of the original order of events has been glossed over by the insertion of the story of the persecution by Herod (ch. 12, which we have already seen to be misplaced), while the notice in 12:25 serves to bring Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch, whence Luke has quite unhistorically taken them. This reconstruction is ingenious and cannot be rejected out of hand. It is adopted by almost all modern radical critics. But against it stands the fact that it does nothing to explain the serious discrepancies between Gal. 2:1-10 and Acts 15:1. (d) Preferable to any of these is the alternative solution, first suggested by Sir William M. Ramsay in 1895, and supported by C. W. Emmet in an essay in The Beginnings of Christianity (II, 277 ff.). This solution is that the visit of Gal. 2:1-10 should be identified, not with the "council visit," but with the "famine visit"--these two visits being rightly distinguished by Luke as two separate events. There are clear hints both in Acts and in Galatians that this is the correct solution.
First, then, in Acts: In 11:22 Barnabas had been sent in the name of the Jerusalem church on a mission of investigation into affairs at Antioch. It is natural to assume that he would return to Jerusalem to report. This he did, at the same time taking Paul with him and acting as commissioner for Antioch in the delivery of the famine relief. It is the latter aspect of his mission that at this point interests Luke, as an example of how the center of gravity is passing to the Gentile churches. But at the same time, on the basis of Barnabas' report, the whole Gentile question was bound to come up for discussion; and naturally it is this aspect of the mission that interests Paul as he writes his account in Gal. 2:1. The idea that this question could not have been raised till the later council is contradicted both by the reference in 11:20 to the mission to Gentiles conducted by the Antioch church, and also by all a priori probabilities. But the discussion indicated in Gal. 2:1 is still private and informal; the controversy was not yet at the stage of public debate, which it reaches at the council meeting of Acts 15:1.
In Galatians, too, several minor references seem to confirm this solution. The words "I went up by revelation" (Gal. 2:2) might refer to the inspired warning given by Agabus in 11:28. Again, Paul's words "which very thing I was eager to do," with reference to the injunction that he and Barnabas should "remember the poor" (Gal. 2:10), fit in excellently in connection with a visit made specifically for charitable purposes. The aorist tense ("I was eager") is almost equivalent to a pluperfect, and fits the fact that Paul had indeed just brought alms to Jerusalem; it would be much less natural if Paul was merely anticipating the later "great collection for the saints." Finally, Peter's ambiguous conduct in Antioch, mentioned in Gal. 2:11 ff., is much more understandable if it took place before the debate at the later council, perhaps during the difficult days referred to in Acts 15:1-2. Indeed, on the supposition that Gal. 2:1-10 is describing the "council visit," so incredible has Peter's action seemed that some scholars have suggested that Paul in Gal. 2:1 is not treating events in strict chronological order, and that Peter's visit to Antioch was in fact earlier than the council at Jerusalem (so Turner, "Chronology of the New Testament," Dictionary of the Bible, ed. James Hastings [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1900]). The proposed solution harmonizes Acts and Galatians without the need for any such adroit manipulation.
Finally, as to chronology: We know from Josephus (Antiquities XX. 5. 2) that a famine took place ca. A.D. 46, and this may be accepted as the date of the second or "famine visit" of Paul to Jerusalem. According to Gal. 2:1, the first visit was "fourteen years" earlier, which, on the inclusive method of reckoning, would place it in 33. Paul's conversion, being "three years" earlier still (Gal. 1:18), would have to be dated as early as 31, perhaps not quite impossibly early, if the Crucifixion is dated in 29 or 30. But the difficulty of such an early date for the conversion, and of the long period of fourteen years, about which we know nothing, spent in Syria and Cilicia (Gal. 1:21), has led to the surmise that in Gal. 2:1 Paul really wrote "after four years." We would then have two possible series of dates:
The conversion 31 or 39
The first visit ("after 3 years"--inclusive) 33 or 42
The "famine visit" ("after 14 years") 46 or 46 ("after 4 years")
The "council visit" 49
Between the second and third visits there took place the first missionary tour (ca. 47-48) and probably the writing of Galatians--for the whole problem is intimately bound up with the "South Galatian theory" and the early dating of Galatians. These problems will be discussed later in connection with ch. 15. Alternatively, those who identify the visit of Gal. 2:1 with the "council visit" must date: the conversion ca. 36; first visit ("after three years") 39; "council visit" ("after fourteen years"--dating inclusively not from the last mentioned visit but, surely most unnaturally, from the conversion) 49. Galatians, of course, on this hypothesis was written after the council.
If the "famine visit" is, as we conclude, historical and separate from the "council visit," it marked a real crisis in Paul's career. If the account in Galatians is correct concerning the first visit, this second visit must have been Paul's real introduction to the Jerusalem church. Accompanied by Barnabas, the most honored representative of Hellenistic Christianity, he would receive a welcome and a recognition which he had not formerly enjoyed; and doubtless he and Barnabas would obtain at least provisional sanction for their projected Gentile tour.
27. Prophets are frequently mentioned in the N.T. and are usually ranked next to apostles (I Cor. 12:28; Eph. 2:20; 3:5; 4:11; Rev. 22:9). In Acts they are mentioned in 13:1; 15:32; 21:9-10. It is obvious that they exercised their function in virtue of charismatic personal gifts rather than of official standing, and there is no evidence that they were in any way ordained to office. The instructions which Paul lays down concerning them (I Cor. 14:29-39) make it clear that their enthusiasm sometimes outran their sense of order and decency. Hence the injunction to "test the spirits to see whether they are of God" (I John 4:1; cf. I Thess. 5:20-21).
28. Agabus is mentioned also in 21:10, where he warns Paul of the fate that awaits him at Jerusalem. The Western text here reads, "And there was much rejoicing, and when we had conversed together...." The verse thus becomes the first of the "we" passages. If the reading is genuine, it suggests that the diary source, here used for the first time, originated in Antioch; if it is not genuine, it at least shows that the "Western" reviser may have connected Acts with Antioch. The days of Claudius: Both Tacitus (Annals XII. 43) and Suetonius (Claudius 18) confirm that there were several famines in Claudius' reign (A.D. 41-54), while Josephus (Antiquities XX. 5) mentions one in Judea which was at the worst ca. A.D. 46.
30. The elders: Mentioned now for the first time as specifically Christian office-bearers. Here they are perhaps the presidents of the house churches of Jerusalem; and in 15:6, 23 they appear with the apostles as a kind of church council. The fact that the alms from Antioch were handed over to them suggests that one of their duties was to act as relief officers. (For their possible relationship to "the seven" see on 6:6.) The fact that on this occasion the alms were handed over to them need not imply that the apostles were absent from Jerusalem, possibly on account of Herod's persecution, as is urged by those who decline to identify this visit with that of Gal. 2:1. It was not in any case the business of the apostles "to serve tables" (6:2). Whether "elders" would as early as this be officially ordained is doubtful, but 14:23 (where see a fuller discussion) shows that in the Pauline churches the custom quickly arose of so consecrating them to their office, though it may be that Luke's language reflects the usage of a slightly later time.
G. PERSECUTION UNDER HEROD (12:1-25)
This chapter is in the nature of an interlude; as already noted (pp. 151-52), it has been suggested that it was inserted to fill the gap between two accounts of one and the same visit to Jerusalem. But if the story of Peter's escape from imprisonment by Herod is historical, it is one of the few incidents in the first half of Acts that can be dated with relative certainty. It must have happened in A.D. 44, the year Herod died (Josephus Antiquities XIX. 8.2), for it is plain that Peter left Jerusalem just before Herod's death, probably in the spring of 44. It follows that Peter's imprisonment took place before the famine and Paul's visit to Jerusalem, which cannot have been earlier than 45 or 46. Therefore, strictly speaking, ch. 12 ought to come before 11:19 ff. If the two visits of Paul to Jerusalem mentioned in chs. 11 and 15 respectively are still held to be doublet accounts of the same visit, then the present Herod section will be correctly placed in relation to the Jerusalem version (ch. 15), but wrongly placed in relation to the Antioch version (ch. 11). This would be natural enough, for the story about Herod clearly would be part of the Jerusalem tradition.
Our reconstruction of the order of events may be further helped by the curiously vague remark about Peter in vs. 17, Then he departed and went to another place. Where did Peter go? We have already remarked that chronologically ch. 12 must come before 11:19 ff. Immediately preceding this is the story about Cornelius, introduced at 9:32 with an equally vague reference to Peter going "here and there among them all." No explanation is given of how he came to be so doing. The placing of 12:17 before 9:32 would give an excellent sequence, and explain both the vagueness of the reference to "another place" and the reason why Peter came thus to be wandering about. At the moment, having fled from the persecution of Herod, he had no fixed place of abode.
An attractive consequence of this reconstruction would be that Peter's activities in Lydda, Joppa, and Caesarea (the conversion of Cornelius) would be taking place at much the same time as the early mission work of Paul and Barnabas at Antioch. Peter would return to Jerusalem at just about the same time as Paul and Barnabas came there on their "famine visit." Peter's argument with the narrower Jewish faction (11:1 ff.) would take place not far from the time when Paul conferred with the same faction during the "famine visit," as recorded in Gal. 2:1. Thus the question of the legitimacy of Gentile missions would be very much in the limelight, and the development of the mission of Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, which according to Acts 11:29-30 was originally merely charitable, may well have been along the lines indicated in Gal. 2:1. The chronological order of events would then be as follows:
(a) Acts 12:17, Peter's escape from Jerusalem (A.D. 44)
(b) Acts 9:32-10:48, Peter's tour through Palestine to Caesarea and the conversion of Cornelius (44-45)
Acts 11:22-26, the work of Barnabas and Paul at Antioch (44-45)
(c) Acts 11:28, the famine in Palestine (45-46)
(d) Acts 11:2, Peter's return to Jerusalem (early 46)
Acts 11:30, the "famine visit" of Paul and Barnabas (early 46)
Gal. 2:1-10, the discussion at Jerusalem (early 46)
The persecution under Herod was apparently not very general, but was directed mainly against the church's leaders. Some scholars believe that at this time not only James but also his brother John was martyred. It is regarded as strange that the persecution did not touch John, who from the beginning of the narrative appears with Peter as one of the two leading representatives of the Jerusalem church. Moreover he is not again mentioned in Acts. (The best discussion of this possibility is in R. H. Charles, The Revelation of St. John [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1920; "International Critical Commentary"], I, xlv ff.) The actual evidence in support of John's early martyrdom is slight enough: (a) The prophecy of Mark 10:39 which, it is held, would gain point if, at the time Mark wrote, it was known to have been fulfilled in the case of both brothers. Curiously Luke omits the prophecy from his Gospel. (b) A statement of Philip of Side (fifth century) in the "de Boor fragment" that "Papias in his second book says that John the divine and James his brother were killed by the Jews." (c) Two early martyrologies which commemorate the martyrdom of James and John on the same day, December 27. (d) The silence concerning any later residence of the apostle John in Ephesus both on the part of Acts and also of Ignatius in his Epistle to the Ephesians (A.D. 110-15). Each of these pieces of evidence is disputed and quite inconclusive; but the cumulative effect is considerable, and as Streeter remarks, "The wonder is that any evidence at all should survive of a tradition apologetically so inconvenient as that of John's early death" (Four Gospels, p. 435).
Loisy argues that the editor of Acts suppressed not only the death of John but also the account of a judicial process against James. He considers it incredible that the death of James could have been dismissed in a single sentence, when so much space is given to Peter's escape. The motive alleged is that the editor is unwilling to imply that a Christian leader could be guilty of an infraction of the law so grave as to justify a capital sentence after formal trial. This surely is sheer perversity! The disproportion between the attention given to James and to Peter is understandable enough if we remember that Peter's story is one that catches the imagination and lends itself to edifying use. Again, the remark that the murder of James "pleased the Jews" (vs. 3) is supposed to imply that there was a formal trial before the Sanhedrin. This too is pure assumption. If the author had found in his sources an account of such a trial, there is no reason whatever why he should have suppressed it; for his tendency is to emphasize the guilty responsibility of the Jewish religious leaders rather than of the civil power as represented here by Herod. If we ask in surprise why so little is said about the first martyrdom--so far as we know--of one of the twelve, the answer perhaps is that the brevity of the notice reflects the true instinct of the early church, which, in its ardent expectation of Jesus' speedy return, regarded bodily death as insignificant. Finally, it is not surprising that Loisy concludes that the whole story of Peter's escape is fiction, based entirely on the known fact that whereas James was martyred, Peter escaped from Jerusalem. But whatever the marvelous coloring of the story, there are circumstantial details (especially vss. 12-17, the house of Mary; ... a maid named Rhoda) which suggest that the story came from one who knew the topography of Jerusalem and was possibly even present in the house when Peter arrived. It seems to be a true story of escape--no doubt with certain miraculous embellishments--preserved in order to explain how it was that Peter, who ought to have been one of the first victims, succeeded in escaping death. A real escape is described in terms of current belief--the unexpected, whatever the true source of rescue, being ascribed to angelic intervention. In so far as the details are true Peter himself may well have been the original source of information; John Mark may have been an eyewitness and may have heard Peter's story; and from Mark, Luke may have had it at first hand.
12:1. Herod the king is Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great (Luke 1:5), and should be distinguished from the Herod Antipas of the Gospels, who was one of Herod the Great's sons and ruler of Galilee and Perea. Agrippa was brought up in Rome in intimate relations with the imperial family, and was a close friend of the young Caligula, who on his accession gave him the title of "king" and bestowed upon him the tetrarchy of Philip (Luke 3:1), to which he shortly afterwards added also the tetrarchy of Herod Antipas. The Emperor Claudius, in whose succession to Caligula Herod had been instrumental, added Judea and Samaria. Agrippa, hitherto still at Rome, then returned to Judea, and in order to win the favor of the people showed great zeal in the practice of the outward rites of Judaism. Another outlet for this religious patriotism he found in this persecution of the "Nazarenes." After his death in A.D. 44 the whole of Palestine became a Roman province. Agrippa II, before whom Paul made his defense (25:13 ff.), was his son.
2. James the brother of John: The son of Zebedee. In the Gospels the order of the names is reversed, "John the brother of James" (Mark 5:37); but by the time Acts was written John was the more prominent, and in 1:13 is mentioned before James, about whom nothing more is known. Some who accept the hypothesis of John's early martyrdom think that the original text here read, "killed James and his brother John"--a tour de force in the interests of a theory!
3. The days of Unleavened Bread, strictly speaking, came after the Passover and not before it, as the somewhat careless writing here would seem to suggest. The "Passover" was on Nisan 14, and "the days" followed from the fourteenth to the twenty-first. But apparently Luke regarded the two terms as synonymous, for in Luke 22:1 he writes that "the feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover."
4. Four squads, a quaternion for each of the four watches of three hours. Bring him out (ajnaga6gein), i.e., for public execution. After the Passover: Cf. Mark 14:2, "Not during the feast, lest there be a tumult of the people."
5. Earnest prayer: The same Greek word that is used of Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane (Luke 22:44).
6. Bring him out (here proa6gein): Probably with the same meaning as in vs. 4, but possibly (like prosaga6gein, 16:20) "bring out for trial."
10. The first and the second guard: Of the four soldiers on duty (vs. 4) two would be chained to Peter while the other two mounted guard. The Western text adds that when Peter and the angel "went out, they descended the seven steps"--possibly the same steps from which on a later occasion Paul addressed the people (21:40). For though we do not know where Peter's prison was, it may well have been the Tower of Antonia. This had gates leading both to the temple and into the city.
12. The house of Mary was, according to church tradition which can be traced back to the fourth century, the house in which was the upper room, where the Last Supper took place. If, as tradition also holds, it was the headquarters of the Jerusalem church, vs. 17 shows that "James and the brethren" were not resident there at the moment. Were they hiding from persecution? The mother of John whose other name was Mark: Have we a hint here that the original source of the story was Mark himself? The latter is again mentioned in vs. 25; 13:5, 13; 15:37-39. Paul mentions him in Col. 4:10 (as a cousin of Barnabas); Philem. 24:1; II Tim. 4:11; and it is most interesting and significant that on all three occasions Luke's name appears in the same context. The two evangelists evidently had ample opportunity to share their reminiscences.
15. It is his angel. The idea of an accompanying guardian angel may be traced in every stratum of Scripture. In Gen. 48:16 Jacob speaks of "the Angel which redeemed me"; in Dan. 10:20, 21; 12:1 we find guardian angels of nations; and in Rev. 1:20 "the angels of the seven churches." In Tob. 5:21 we are told that "a good angel shall go with him." In Matthew 18:10 the "little ones" have "their angels"; and in Heb. 1:14 we read of "ministering spirits sent forth to serve." Here a distinction is evidently intended between the Lord's "angel" (cf. 8:26) in vs. 11, who is the divine agent of the escape, and Peter's "angel," who is in some way Peter's own spiritual representative--as we should say, "his ghost."
17. James is "the Lord's brother" and apparently at the moment the acting head of the church at Jerusalem. Does this mean that the rest of the twelve had fled temporarily from the city? Peter of course reappears at Jerusalem at 11:2 and at the council in ch. 15. Yet even on that formal occasion it is not Peter but James who, after the debate, delivers the judgment. James's prestige as "the Lord's brother," combined perhaps with the respect with which he was regarded by the Jewish community, evidently quickly gave him preeminence at Jerusalem (see also on 21:18).
To another place: Failing the suggestion made above that this phrase links up the narrative with 9:32, the following explanations have been given of this oddly vague note: (a) Peter simply went to another house in the city, where he could lie low. In 4:31 "the place" seems to be a house. It may be that in the earliest telling of the story there was still a desire to keep the place of refuge secret. (b) Antioch is suggested as a likely place of retreat. But if so, why should the name be suppressed? Loisy thinks the reason is that the name would recall the unfortunate quarrel later at Antioch, when Paul fell out with Peter and Barnabas (Gal. 2:11 ff.)--an incident which Luke ignores in Acts, giving another reason for the estrangement between Paul and Barnabas (15:36 ff.). (c) The early apologists, ignoring the necessity of bringing back Peter to Jerusalem for the council, seized on this phrase as marking the point where Peter departed to take up his bishopric at Rome. But the Epistle to the Romans seems to imply that at the time of writing (A.D. 54) no apostle had yet visited the city. It is most improbable that Peter did any missionary work in Rome so early. It is barely possible, but most unlikely, that, as Rackham suggests, he went to Rome as the best of all hiding places (Acts of the Apostles, p. 180). The tradition that Peter was in Rome in the days of Claudius is bound up with the legends about Simon Magus. (See p. 111 above and B. H. Streeter, The Primitive Church, pp. 15-16.)
19. Put to death: A common enough penalty for a guard convicted of allowing the escape of a prisoner held on a capital charge (Codex Justinianus IX. 4. 4). But the Greek might mean simply "to be led away," i.e., to prison. From Judea to Caesarea: Rather a curious expression, for which cf. 21:10, for Caesarea was in fact the Roman capital of Judea.
20-21. We have no information why Herod was angry with Tyre and Sidon. But whatever the reason, Herod held the trump card, for Phoenicia still depended for its food on the cornfields of Galilee, just as in the days of Solomon (I Kings 5:9). Blastus, of whom we know nothing more, was presumably bribed to obtain favorable terms. The appointed day was, according to Josephus, a feast in honor of the emperor. But Luke seems to mean that a special day was fixed for the reception of the Phoenician delegates. Agrippa's royal robes were, according to Josephus, on this occasion entirely of silver.
22-23. The voice of a god: No very unusual flattery, as Orientals were accustomed to deify their monarchs, and the worship of the "divine" Augustus was rapidly spreading throughout the empire. An angel of the Lord is the usual agent of divine retribution, as in the case, e.g., of Sennacherib's army (II Kings 19:35). Did not give God the glory, i.e., instead of arrogating it to himself. But possibly--specially if with the Western text we read "glory" for "the glory"--this may be the common Jewish expression meaning "admit oneself in the wrong and ask forgiveness" (see on 11:18).
Josephus (Antiquities XIX. 8. 2) gives a vivid account of Herod's death. The superstitious king had been taught to believe that an owl was to be the harbinger of his fate. In the midst of the flattering plaudits of the crowd he saw an owl sitting on the awning of the theater, whereupon he was seized with sudden pains in the belly, was carried to his palace, and died on the fifth day from a loathsome disease.
24-25. These verses are another of the characteristic Lukan "summaries" marking the end of one of the "panels" (see Intro., p. 15). Returned from Jerusalem: This meaning seems obviously required. At 11:30 Barnabas and Paul had come to Jerusalem; they now return to Antioch. But curiously the best MSS, including both Codex Vaticanus (B) and Codex Sinaiticus (a), read "returned to Jerusalem"; and on the accepted principles of textual criticism this ought to be preferred as the more difficult reading and the one more likely to be changed to the easier "from Jerusalem." On the other hand a visit to Jerusalem by Paul would not naturally be called a "return." If "to Jerusalem" is accepted as correct, we must suppose either: (a) The verse picks up and repeats 11:30--perhaps to indicate that the events of ch. 12 preceded the famine and the visit to Jerusalem, as we have seen to have been almost certainly the case. We would then have to translate, "Returned to Jerusalem and fulfilled their mission"--the aorist participle plhrw6santev being "timeless" and here referring to what took place not before but actually after the action of the main verb. For other possible examples of this construction see 16:6; 23:35; 25:13. (b) Translate, by an inversion of the order of the Greek: "Returned [to Antioch] having fulfilled their mission to Jerusalem."
Bringing with them ... Mark: This is in favor of the reading "from Jerusalem," for Mark's home, we know, was in Jerusalem. He was a relative of Barnabas (Col. 4:10), so that the delegates from Antioch may well have stayed at his home. Possibly "John" now took the Roman praenomen or other name of Mark with a view to his coming travels in Gentile districts.