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ACTS
The continued Life of Jesus through the Apostles

CHAPTER TWENTY ONE

"Bondage Begins"
Key Verse = Acts 21:13


  1. Warnings on the Journey to Jerusalem 3. Paul Arrested in the Temple
  2. Paul Urged to Make Peace with the Jews 4. Paul Addresses the Jerusalem Mob



WARNINGS  ON  THE  JOURNEY  TO  JERUSALEM

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Acts 21:1-3
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(1)  Now it came to pass, that when we had departed from them and set sail, running a straight course we came to Cos, the following day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara.

And it came to pass after we separated from them, we sailed a straight course to the Island of Coos, and the following day we arrived at Rhodes, and from thence to Patara.

(2)  And finding a ship sailing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail.

And we found there a ship sailing to Phoenicia, and we went on board and set forth.

(3)  When we had sighted Cyprus, we passed it on the left, sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload her cargo.

Then we reached the Island of Cyprus, and passed it on the left hand, and sailed to Syria, and from thence we landed at Tyre, for there the ship was to unload her cargo.


Cos
This was a small island in the Grecian Archipelago, a short distance from the southwestern point of Asia Minor. It is now called "Stan-co." It was celebrated for its fertility, and for the wine and silk-worms which it produced. It was about 40 miles south of Miletus.

They put into Cos overnight; a small island, it was on the usual route to Rhodes and had a large Jewish community.

Rhodes
This was also an island in the Grecian Archipelago. On the island was a city of the same name, which was principally distinguished for its brass Colossus, which was built by Chares of Lyndus. It stood across the mouth of the harbor, and was so high that vessels could pass between its legs. It stood for 56 years, and was then thrown down by an earthquake. It was reckoned as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. When the Saracens took possession of this island they sold this prostrate image to a Jew, who loaded 900 camels with the brass from it. This was 600 AD, about 900 years after it had been thrown down. The ancient name of the island was Asteria. Its name, Rhodes, was given from the great quantity of roses which it produced.

Rhodes was a regular stopping place for ships; it also had a sizable Jewish community.

Patara
This was a maritime city of Lycia, in Asia Minor, over against Rhodes.

Alexandrian grain ships hugging close to the coast of southern Asia Minor frequently made tedious stops at each port, due to the uncertainty of land breezes; thus after they have put in at the Lycian port of Patara in southern Asia Minor, Paul and his companions find a ship sailing across open water directly for Phoenicia, cutting along the south of Cyprus, still under a slight time constraint.

The southern shore of Cyprus, by which they passed, was shallow and had no harbors, so the ship did not try to put in there. The Roman province of Syria included not only Antioch to the north but also Phoenicia and Judea to the south; they had saved considerable time by sailing across the open sea toward Tyre, which would provide safe harbor throughout the year.
(From IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)

Paul and his party sailed from Miletus to Cos, then to Rhodes, and then to Patara, a total of three days journey. But Paul was uncomfortable with a "local coastal" ship that stopped at every port; - so when he found a boat going directly to Phoenicia, he and his friends boarded it. It would be a voyage of about 400 miles.

Tyre
This would have been Paul's first contact with the believers in Tyre, though it is likely that his persecution of the Jerusalem believers helped to get this church started (Acts 11:19). The men had to seek out the believers, so it must not have been a large assembly, and apparently there was no synagogue in the town. They stayed a week with the saints while their ship unloaded its cargo and took on new cargo.
(From The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

Throughout this chapter (and especially in Chapter 27) Luke uses a number of technical nautical terms, the first of which is translated by the TEV as left; this same word has been rendered "set sail" (RSV, Phillips, NEB) and "put to sea" (JB). Sailing straight across (see Acts 16:11) is also a technical term used in sailing; as the word indicates. it describes a ship making a straight course. Commentators believe that this implies that the wind was coming from the northeast, and this would explain once again why it was much easier for Paul to send for the Ephesian elders than for him to go to them in Ephesus. Luke apparently outlines the journey day by day in this verse: the first day was from Miletus to the small isle of Cos, the second was from Cos to Rhodes, and the third was from Rhodes to Patara, the port city of Lycia. Since Cos and Patara, are the names of the main cities on the islands, as well as the names of the islands themselves, it is quite likely that Luke intended the reader to understand that these were the cities where the ship stopped.
(from the UBS New Testament Handbook Series. Copyright © 1961-1997, by United Bible Societies.)

From the Amplified Bible
(1)  AND WHEN we had torn ourselves away from them and withdrawn, we set sail and made a straight run to Cos, and on the following [day came] to Rhodes and from there to Patara.
(2)  There we found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia; so we went aboard and sailed away.
(3)  After we had sighted Cyprus, leaving it on our left we sailed on to Syria and put in at Tyre, for there the ship was to unload her cargo.

Acts 21:4-6
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(4)  And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem.

And because we found disciples there, we stayed with them seven days; and every day they said to Paul through the Spirit that he should not go up to Jerusalem.

(5)  When we had come to the end of those days, we departed and went on our way; and they all accompanied us, with wives and children, till we were out of the city. And we knelt down on the shore and prayed.

After these days, we departed on our journey, and they all escorted us on our way with their wives and children till we were out of the city; then they knelt down by the seaside and prayed;

(6)  When we had taken our leave of one another, we boarded the ship, and they returned home.

And when we had kissed one another good-bye, we took ship; and they returned to their homes.


Stayed seven days
Jewish people and Christians could expect hospitality from their own wherever they went; it was a required part of their culture, honored their host and was an incomparably superior alternative to spending the night in inns, which usually doubled as brothels.

Told Paul through the Spirit
In light of the standard Jewish view that God's Spirit especially inspired prophecy, prophecy is surely somehow involved in their exhortation. Yet this phrase is not Luke's usual description of prophecy and probably indicates that they were simply warning him not to go on the basis of their prophecies about what would happen (20:23; 21:11).

Paul began to get messages from his friends that his visit to Jerusalem would be difficult and dangerous. Of course, he had already suspected this, knowing how the false teachers operated (Rom 15:30-31); but these messages were very personal and powerful. In Tyre, the believers "kept on saying to him" (literal Greek) that he should not set foot in Jerusalem.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

This verse should also be compared with:
1. Acts 20:22-24
He did not yet fully know what to expect, except that there would be bonds and afflictions. Yet he said that his life was less important to him than the ministry of the gospel.
2. Acts 21:11-14
He was warned that he would be bound and delivered to the hands of the Gentiles. They begged him not to go to Jerusalem, but he said that he was willing and ready to die for the name of the Lord. So they finally said: THE WILL OF THE LORD BE DONE.
3. Acts 23:11
While Paul was in prison in Jerusalem, the Lord came to him in the night, and told him that as he testified in Jerusalem, so must he also testify at Rome.

In view of the phrase, "through the Spirit," was Paul wrong in pursuing his course to Jerusalem? Probably he was not violating God's will for several reasons:
1. Acts 20:22 and 21:14 imply it was God's will for Paul to continue on to Jerusalem (cf. 19:21).
2. The comfort given by God (23:11) implies Paul had not stubbornly refused the Lord's will.
3. In 23:1 Paul declared he had lived in all good conscience to that day.
(from Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries; Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries. All rights reserved.)

But here the Ruach HaKodesh (Spirit Holy) is giving the believers of Tzor (Tyre) a word of knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8-10) that in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) Sha’ul will meet with trouble. This word, already sensed by Sha’ul (20:23), is confirmed again shortly afterwards (vv. 10-14). But it is their own inference, not the Holy Spirit's command, that Sha’ul should therefore not go on. Their urging seems reasonable, and it appeals to sentiment. But it is not the Lord's will for Sha’ul, whom he told at the beginning that his ministry would involve suffering (9:16).
(From Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

So we may draw the final conclusion, from all of these taken together, that Paul was warned what to expect through prophetical utterances. The brethren misunderstood the meaning, and misinterpreted the warnings. We submit here that Paul was not going against the will of the Lord in proceeding to Jerusalem.

HISTORICAL OUTLOOK FROM 400 A. D. BY ARCHBISHOP JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
Homily 45 - Acts 21:1-6
What means, "We came with a straight course unto Coos?" Instead of saying, "we did not go round nor make stay in other places." Then "unto Rhodes." (ch. 21:1.) See how he haste’s on. And finding a ship sailing over unto Phoenicia. (v. 2.) Possibly that ship (in which they had come) was making a stay there: wherefore they shifted to another. And not having found one going to Caesarea, but (finding this) for Phoenicia, they embarked in it (and pursued their voyage), having left Cyprus also and Syria: but the expression, "having left it on the left hand," is not said simply (in that meaning), but that they made speed not to get to Syria either. "We landed at Tyre." (v. 3.) Then they tarry with the brethren seven days. Now that they were come near to Jerusalem, they no longer run. "Who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem." (v. 4.)
Observe how, when the Spirit does not forbid, he complies. They said, "Adventure not thyself into the theatre, and he did not adventure" (ch. 19:31): often they bore him off (from dangers), and he complied: again he escaped by a window: and now, though numberless persons, so to say, beseech him, both those at Tyre and those at Caesarea, weeping also and predicting numberless dangers, he refuses to comply. And yet it is not (merely), they predicted the dangers, but "said by the Spirit." If then the Spirit bade, why did he gainsay? "By the Spirit," that is, they knowing "by the Spirit" (what would be the consequences, said to him): for of course it does not mean that the exhortation they made was by the Spirit. For they did not simply foretell to him the dangers (through the Spirit), but (added of themselves) that it behooved him not to go up-sparing him.
But "after we had accomplished the days," i. e. had fulfilled the appointed days, "we separated, and went on our way: they all bringing us on our way with wives and children." (v. 5.)-See how great was the entreaty. And again they part with prayer. Also in Ptolemais they stay one day, but in Caesarea many. (v. 6-8.) Now that they are near to Jerusalem, they no longer hurry. For observe, I pray you, all the days. "After the day of unleavened bread" they came "to Troas in five days" (ch. 20:6); then they there spent "seven;" in all, twelve: then to "Thasos," to "Mitylene," to "Trogyllium" and "over against Chios," and to "Samos" and "Miletus" (verses13-17); eighteen in all. Then to "Cos," to "Rhodes," to "Patara," twenty-one: then say five to "Tyre;" twenty-six: there "seven;" thirty-three; "Ptolemais," thirty-four; then to "Caesarea, many days" (ch. 21:1-10); and then, thereafter, the prophet puts them up thence. When Paul has heard that he has to suffer numberless perils, then he is in haste, not flinging himself upon the dangers but accounting it to be the command of the Spirit.
(from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1, Volume 11, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(4)  And having looked up the disciples there, we remained with them for seven days. Prompted by the [Holy] Spirit, they kept telling Paul not to set foot in Jerusalem.
(5)  But when our time there was ended, we left and proceeded on our journey; and all of them with their wives and children accompanied us on our way till we were outside the city. There we knelt down on the beach and prayed.
(6)  Then when we had told one another farewell, we went on board the ship, and they returned to their own homes.

Acts 21:7-9
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(7)  And when we had finished our voyage from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, greeted the brethren, and stayed with them one day.

We sailed from Tyre and arrived at the city of Akka (Ptolemais), and we saluted the brethren who were there, and tarried with them a day.

(8)  On the next day we who were Paul's companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him.

On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea; and we went in and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven.

(9)   Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied.

He had four daughters, virgins, who prophesied.


Ptolemais
This was a city situated on the coast of the Mediterranean, on the north angle of a bay which extends, in a semicircle of three leagues, as far as the point of Mount Carmel. At the south and west sides the city was washed by the sea, and was surrounded by triple walls.

It was in the tribe of Asher (Judges 1:31), and was originally called ACCHO; but was called Ptolemais in honor of one of the Ptolemies, who beautified and adorned it. The Christian crusaders gave it the name of Acre, or John of Acre, from a magnificent church which was built in it, and which was dedicated to the apostle John. It is still called Akha by the Turks. The Syriac and Arabic render it Accho in this place. It sustained several sieges during the Crusades, and was the last fortified place wrested from the Christians by the Turks. It sustained a memorable siege under Bonaparte, and since then it has been much increased and strengthened. Its present population is estimated at from 18,000 to 20,000.

Ptolemy II had made Ptolemais an important harbor.

Caesarea
Caesarea was about forty miles south of Ptolemais, and if the text indicates that they made the journey in one day, they must have gone by boat.

The men stayed with Philip, one of the original deacons (Acts 6:1-6) who also served as an evangelist (Acts 8:5 ff). It was now some twenty years since he had come to Caesarea and made it his headquarters (Acts 8:40). Since Philip had been an associate of Stephen, and Paul had taken part in Stephen's death, this must have been an interesting meeting. While Paul rested in Caesarea, the Prophet Agabus came to give him a second warning message from the Lord. Some fifteen years before, Paul and Agabus had worked together in a famine relief program for Judea (Acts 11:27-30), so they were not strangers. Agabus delivered his message in a dramatic way as he bound his own hands and feet with Paul's girdle and told the apostle that he would be bound in Jerusalem.

Philip
Philip the proclaimer of the Good News, one of the Seven appointed shammashim (deacons) (6:5, 8:5), settled in Caesarea (8:40). Although it was the Roman capital, Philip must have won only Jews to the Lord at first; since Kefa (Peter) later brought the first Gentile to faith in that very city (10:1-11:18).
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

Second in the list of the seven (Acts 6:5) after Stephen and that fact mentioned here. By this title he is distinguished from "Philip the apostle," one of the twelve.
(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright © 1985 by Broadman Press.)

The evangelist
Euaggelistes - This word properly means one who announces good news. In the New Testament it is applied to a preacher of the gospel, or one who declares the glad tidings of salvation. It occurs only in two other places,
Eph. 4:11; 2 Tim. 4:5. What was the precise rank of those who bore this title in the early Christian church cannot perhaps be determined.

It is evident, however, that it is used to denote the office of preaching the gospel; and as this title is applied to Philip, and not to any other of the seven deacons, it would seem probable that he had been entrusted with a special commission to preach, and that preaching did not pertain to him as a deacon, and does not properly belong to that office. The business of a deacon was to take care of the poor members of the church, Acts 6:1-6. The office of preaching was distinct from this, though, as in this case, it might be conferred on the same individual.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

A "publisher of glad tidings;" a missionary preacher of the gospel (Eph. 4:11). This title is applied to Philip (Acts 21:8), who appears to have gone from city to city preaching the word (8:4, 40). Judging from the case of Philip, evangelists had neither the authority of an apostle, nor the gift of prophecy, nor the responsibility of pastoral supervision over a portion of the flock. They were itinerant preachers, having it as their special function to carry the gospel to places where it was previously unknown. The writers of the four Gospels are known as the Evangelists.
(from Easton's Bible Dictionary, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Virgins
Parthenos  (NT:3933) - a maiden; by implication, an unmarried daughter:

Prophesied
Propheteuo (NT:4395) - to foretell events, divine, speak under inspiration, exercise the prophetic office.

That females would be used of God in this ministry was foretold by Joel (Joel 2:28) and confirmed in Acts 2:17 and 1 Corinthians 11:5.

It intimates that they prophesied of Paul's troubles at Jerusalem, as others had done, and dissuaded him from going; or perhaps they prophesied for his comfort and encouragement, in reference to the difficulties that were before him.
(from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, PC Study Bible Formatted Electronic Database Copyright © 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All Rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(7)  When we had completed the voyage from Tyre, we landed at Ptolemais, where we paid our respects to the brethren and remained with them for one day.
(8)  On the morrow we left there and came to Caesarea; and we went into the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the Seven [first deacons], and stayed with him. [Acts 6:5.]
(9)  And he had four maiden daughters who had the gift of prophecy.

Acts 21:10 & 11
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(10)  And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.

And as we were there many days, there came down from Judea a prophet named Agabus.

(11)  When he had come to us, he took Paul's belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, "Thus says the Holy Spirit, 'So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'"

And when he was come to us he took Paul's girdle and bound his own feet and hands, and said, Thus says the Holy Spirit: So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owns this girdle and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.


Agabus could have left for Caesarea from Jerusalem (he "came down" from the mountainous part of Judea, including Jerusalem) about the time that Paul arrived in Caesarea and could have easily gotten there in several days. (Caesarea was the Roman headquarters for Judea, but Luke here uses "Judea" in the sense of Jewish Palestine or ancient Judah, rather than the stricter Roman sense.)

Some fifteen years before, Paul and Agabus had worked together in a famine relief program for Judea (Acts 11:27-30), so they were not strangers. Agabus delivered his message in a dramatic way as he bound his own hands and feet with Paul's girdle and told the apostle that he would be bound in Jerusalem.

Paul's belt
Also called a girdle. The loose, flowing robes, or outer garments, which were worn in Eastern countries, were bound by a girdle, or sash, around the body when they ran, or labored, or walked. Such a girdle was therefore an indispensable part of dress.

It was common for the prophets to perform actions which were emblematic of the events which they predicted. The design was to make the prediction more forcible and impressive by representing it to the eye.
Jeremiah 13:4 Jeremiah was directed to bury his girdle by the Euphrates, to denote the approaching captivity of the Jews
Jeremiah 27:2-3 Jeremiah was directed to make bands and yokes, and to put them around his neck, as a sign to Edom and Moab, etc.
Jeremiah 18:4 The act of the potter was emblematic of the destruction that was coming upon the nation of the Jews.
Isaiah 20:3-4 Isaiah walked naked and barefoot as a sign of the captivity of Egypt and Ethiopia.

Finally, the prophecy of Agabus at the house of Philip the evangelist heightens the sense of impending doom we feel for Paul. During Paul's trip to Jerusalem, disciples tried to dissuade him from continuing the journey. Now we are fully aware of the danger into which Paul was going, yet we have a sense of the Spirit's leading. Paul and God had a larger plan: to spread the gospel to Rome.
(from Holman Bible Handbook. (c) Copyright 1992 by Holman Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.)

Paul had already written to the Romans about the dangers in Judea (Acts 15:30-31), and he had shared these same feelings with the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:22-23); so he was fully aware of the problems involved.

From the Amplified Bible
(10)  While we were remaining there for some time, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.
(11)  And coming to [see] us, he took Paul's belt and with it bound his own feet and hands and said, Thus says the Holy Spirit: The Jews at Jerusalem shall bind like this the man who owns this belt, and they shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles (heathen).

Acts 21:12-14
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(12)  Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem.

And when we had heard these words, both we and the natives of the place besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.

(13)  Then Paul answered, "What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."

Then Paul answered, saying, Why do you weep and break my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but also to die at Jerusalem for the sake of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(14)  So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, "The will of the Lord be done."

And when he would not listen to us, we ceased, saying Let the will of our Lord be done.


As did the saints in Tyre, so the believers in Caesarea begged Paul not to go to Jerusalem. Surely the men chosen by the churches could deliver the love offering to James and the Jerusalem elders, and it would not be necessary for Paul to go personally. But Paul silenced them and told them that he was prepared ("ready") not only to be bound, but also to die if necessary for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now we must pause to consider whether Paul was right or wrong in making that trip to Jerusalem. If it seems improper, or even blasphemous, so to examine the actions of an apostle, keep in mind that he was a human being like anyone else. His epistles were inspired, but this does not necessarily mean that everything he did was perfect. Whether he was right or wrong, we can certainly learn from his experience.

On the con side:
These repeated messages do sound like warnings to Paul to stay out of Jerusalem. For that matter, over twenty years before, the Lord had commanded Paul to get out of Jerusalem because the Jews would not receive his testimony (Acts 22:18).
Paul had already written to the Romans about the dangers in Judea (Acts 15:30-31), and he had shared these same feelings with the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:22-23); so he was fully aware of the problems involved.

Remember in using this analogy we are only considering what we read in the text, and that would only account for a small amount of intelligence in this situation.   (Paul the Learner)

On the pro side:
The prophetic utterances can be taken as warnings
"Get ready!" rather than as prohibitions "You must not go!"
The statement in Acts 21:4 does not use the Greek negative [ou], which means absolute prohibition, but the Greek positive [me], used "where one thinks a thing is not" (Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, by Abbott-Smith, p. 289). Agabus did not forbid Paul to go to Jerusalem, he only told him what to expect if he did go. As for the Lord's command in Acts 22:18, it applied to that particular time and need not be interpreted as a prohibition governing the rest of Paul's life. While it is true that Paul avoided Jerusalem it is also true that he returned there on other occasions: with famine relief (Acts 11:27-30); to attend the Jerusalem Conference (Acts 15:1 ff); and after his second missionary journey (Acts 18:22 - "going up to greet the church" refers to Jerusalem).
In view of Paul's statement in Acts 23:1 (I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day), and the Lord's encouraging words in Acts 23:11 (Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome), it is difficult to believe that the apostle deliberately disobeyed the revealed will of God. God's prophecy to Ananias (Acts 9:15) certainly came true in the months that followed as Paul had opportunity to witness for Christ.
Instead of accusing Paul of compromise, we ought to applaud him for his courage. Why? Because in going to Jerusalem he took his life in his hands in order to try to solve the most pressing problem in the church: the growing division between the "far right" legalistic Jews and the believing Gentiles. Ever since the Jerusalem Conference (Acts 15), trouble had been brewing, and the legalists had been following Paul and seeking to capture his converts. It was a serious situation, and Paul knew that he was a part of the answer as well as a part of the problem. But he could not solve the problem by remote control through representatives; he had to go to Jerusalem personally.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

Note: to try to put it in our time frame, let us say that you were a young Christian and anxious to know Jesus better and because you did not yet know the Scriptures, along came a preacher who was a legalist, in other words, you were sinning if you cut your hair or wore jewelry. Or you were sinning if you had a TV in your home, or even wearing a wrist watch or a wedding ring [I know that this sounds crazy, but I have seen such teachings in my life time]. So the preacher, instead of preaching about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and how He could make a new creature out of the sinner, begins preaching a message on the do’s and don’ts of living a Christian life. The young believer would accept his or her message as Gospel truth and so might mess up his life and not learn what it was really all about. Paul would have condemned such a message as contrary to what Christ wanted done, ‘I preach Christ and Him crucified.’ Any time that you add your don’ts to the Gospel message, you are telling God that His plan was not complete, that it needed your impute for completion. (Paul the Learner)
Colossians 2:20-23
Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations — "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the using — according to the commandments and doctrines of men?  These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.        (NKJV)
Facing a similar situation Yeshua Jesus said to Kefa, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Mt 16:23). Yeshua was angry at the Adversary; here Sha’ul is sorrowful over his friends' efforts to dissuade him from doing what the Spirit wants him to do (see v. 4&N). In the end the others assent, subordinating their feelings to the Lord's will.
(From Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

His mind was fixed on going to Jerusalem; and he felt that he was prepared for whatever awaited him. Expressions of tenderness among friends are proper. Tears may be inevitable at parting from those whom we love. But such expressions of love ought not to be allowed to interfere with the convictions of duty in their minds. If they have made up their minds that a certain course is proper, and have resolved to pursue it, we ought neither to attempt to divert them from it, nor to distract their minds by our remonstrance’s or our tears. We should resign them to their convictions of what is demanded of them with affection and prayer, but with cheerfulness. We should lend them all the aid in our power, and then commend them to the blessing and protection of God. These remarks apply especially to those who are engaged in the missionary enterprise.

We ceased
We ceased remonstrating with him, and urging him to remain.
They were now assured that it was the will of God that he should go, and they were now ready to submit to that will. This is an instance and an evidence of true piety. It was the expression of a wish that whatever God might judge to be necessary for the advancement of his cause might take place, even though it should be attended with many trials. They commended their friend to the protection of God, confident that whatever should occur would be right.

HISTORICAL OUTLOOK FROM 400 A. D. BY ARCHBISHOP JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
Homily 45 - Acts 20:11-14
And Agabus does not say, "They shall bind" Paul, that he may not seem to speak upon agreement (with Paul), but "the man that owned this girdle" (v. 11)-so then he had a girdle also. But when they could not persuade him-this was why they wept-then they "held their peace." Do you mark the resignation? do you mark the affection? "They held their peace," it says, "saying, The will of the Lord be done." (v. 12-14.) The Lord, say they, Himself will do that which is pleasing in his sight. For they perceived that it was the will of God. Else Paul would not be so bent (upon going)-he that on all other occasions delivers himself out of dangers.
(from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1, Volume 11, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(12)  When we heard this, both we and the residents of that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem.
(13)  Then Paul replied, What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart like this? For I hold myself in readiness not only to be arrested and bound and imprisoned at Jerusalem, but also [even] to die for the name of the Lord Jesus.
(14)  And when he would not yield to [our] persuading, we stopped [urging and imploring him], saying, The Lord's will be done!

PAUL  URGED  TO  MAKE  PEACE  WITH  THE  JEWS

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Acts 21:15 & 16   
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(15)  And after those days we packed and went up to Jerusalem.

After those days we made our preparations and went up to Jerusalem.

(16)  Also some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us and brought with them a certain Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we were to lodge.

And there came with us some of the disciples from Caesarea, bringing with them a brother also who was among the first converts, named Mnason, a native of Cyprus, who had before received us at his house.


A company of believers left Caesarea and traveled with Paul to Jerusalem, probably to celebrate the feast. It was a journey of sixty-five miles that took at least three days by foot - two days if they had animals. What fellowship they must have enjoyed as they recounted what God had done in and through them! What a great encouragement it was for Paul to have these friends at his side as he faced the challenge of Jerusalem. The city would be crowded with Pilgrims, but Paul and his party planned to live with Mnason, "an early disciple," who lived in Jerusalem and had been visiting Caesarea. Was he perhaps converted under Peter's preaching at Pentecost? Or did his fellow Cypriot Barnabas win him to Christ? (Acts 4:36) We are not told; but we do know that Mnason was a man given to hospitality, and his ministry helped Paul at a strategic time in the apostle's ministry.
(from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)

Mnason of Cyprus
The original in this place would be better translated, "And brought us to Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple," etc. It is evident that, though Mnason was originally of Cyprus, yet he was now an inhabitant of Jerusalem, and was well known to the disciples at Caesarea. It is possible that he might have been at Caesarea, and accompanied Paul to Jerusalem; but the more correct interpretation of the passage is, that Paul and his fellow-travelers were conducted to his house in Jerusalem, and that he was not with them in the journey.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Cyprus had a large Jewish community, some of whom had migrated to Jerusalem and been among the first disciples (4:36). The name "Mnason" was more common among Romans, "Jason" among Jews and Greeks, but Jews occasionally used "Mnason" too.
(from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(15)  After these days we packed our baggage and went up to Jerusalem.
(16)  And some of the disciples from Caesarea came with us, conducting us to the house of Mnason, a man from Cyprus, one of the disciples of long standing, with whom we were to lodge.

Acts 21:17-19
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(17)  And when we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.

When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brethren welcomed us gladly.

(18)  On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.

And the next day when all the elders were present, we went in with Paul to James.

(19)  When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

And when we had saluted them, Paul told them in successive order everything that God had done among the Gentiles by his ministry


This gracious reception would necessarily include hospitality for the whole delegation — including offering lodging in Jewish Christian homes to uncircumcised Gentile Christians (although Paul himself might have stayed with his nephew's family - 23:16).
(from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)

They had been long absent. They had been into distant regions, and had encountered many dangers. It was a matter of joy that they had now returned in safety.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

James
Ya‘akov — James, the half-brother of Yeshua (Jesus) and leader of the Messianic Community in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem).
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

He told those things which God had done
Sha’ul does not mention the great collection he and his companions were bringing with them for the Jewish poor in Yerushalayim; we assume it was duly delivered (see 24:17&N). His concern is rather with the things God had done among the Gentiles through him. He is not boasting; the elders need to be brought up to date on how the Lord is moving in places abroad.
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

HISTORICAL OUTLOOK FROM 400 A. D. BY ARCHBISHOP JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
Homily XLVI
This was the Bishop of Jerusalem; and to him (Paul) is sent on an earlier occasion. This (James) was brother of the Lord; a great and admirable man. (To him, it says,) "Paul entered in with us." Mark the (Bishop's) unassuming behavior: "and the elders" (were present). Again Paul relates to them the things relating to the Gentiles, not indulging in vainglory, God forbid, but wishing to show forth the mercy of God, and to fill them with great joy. (ch. 15.) See accordingly: "when they heard it," it says, "they glorified God," - not praised nor admired Paul: for in such wise had he narrated, as referring all to Him- "and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believed."
(from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1, Volume 11, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(17)  When we arrived in Jerusalem, the brethren received and welcomed us gladly.
(18)  On the next day Paul went in with us to [see] James, and all the elders of the church were present [also].
(19)  After saluting them, Paul gave a detailed account of the things God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

Acts 21:20 & 21
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(20)  And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, "You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law;

And when they heard it, they glorified God and said to Paul, Our brother, see how many thousands there are in Judea who are believers; and they are all zeal9ous of the law:

(21)  but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.

But they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake the law of Moses, stating that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to follow after the customs of the law.


The Jerusalem Christians accept the Gentile work but in so doing are confronted by a conflict with their culture. Jerusalem is not what it had been in Acts 2; tensions are rising, and in the temple sicarii, or assassins, are murdering aristocrats suspected of collaborating with the Gentiles. Jewish nationalism is on the rise, and nationalism's exclusivity makes it intolerant of supposedly faithful members of its people who have fellowship with members of other peoples. Thus it is incumbent on Paul to prove the integrity of his Jewishness; he cannot compromise the Gentile mission, but he will intentionally affirm his Jewish heritage at any cost short of unbiblical exclusivism.

The Jerusalem church is providing an effective indigenous witness within its culture. Modern Gentile Christians who oppose Jewish Christians' keeping the law while these Gentile Christians observe church and cultural traditions of their own are out of keeping with the spirit of the New Testament, which calls people to forsake their sin, not positive or neutral elements of their culture. (The second-century Christian apologist Justin Martyr notes this controversy in his own day but clearly maintains the earlier Christian view that Jewish people could both practice the law and follow Jesus (Dialogue with Trypho 47).

James says literally that "many ten-thousands" believe - a minimum of fifty thousand, which, if taken at face value, would be one-tenth of Palestine's estimated Jewish population and over eight times the estimated number of Pharisees. James himself was martyred by the pro-Roman aristocracy a few years after this time, but his witness to his culture had been so effective that the populace of Jerusalem demanded the removal of his killer from office.
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

They glorified the Lord
They gave praise to the Lord for what he had done. They saw new proofs of his goodness and mercy, and they rendered him thanks for all that had been accomplished. There was no jealousy that it had been done by the instrumentality of Paul. True piety will rejoice in the spread of the gospel, and in the conversion of sinners, by whatever instrumentality it may be effected.

Thou seest, brother
The language of tenderness in this address, recognizing Paul as a fellow-laborer and fellow-Christian, implies a wish that Paul would do all that could be done to avoid giving offence, and to conciliate the favor of his countrymen.

How many thousands
The number of converts at this time must have been very great. Twenty-five years before this, 3,000 had been converted at one time (Acts 2), and afterward the number had swelled to some more thousands, Acts 4:4. The assertion that there were then "many thousands," implies that the work so signally begun on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem had not ceased, and that many more had been converted to the Christian faith.

Which believe
Who are Christians. They are spoken of as believers, or as having faith in Christ, in contradistinction from those who rejected him, and whose characteristic trait it was that they were an unbeliever.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Zealous
Literally “zealots” – the name given by Josephus to the ultra or fanatical anti-Roman party, whose excesses finally occasioned the destruction of the Jewish state and of the temple at Jerusalem. It is here, no doubt, applied to Christian or converted Jews. Such in every age, have often brought into the Church the spirit of their old profession, and the Christian zealots, here described, may have partaken largely of the violent fanaticism, which was already teeming and fermenting in the bosoms of their unconverted brethren. The verb (are) stands in Greek at the end of the sentence (“and all zealous ones of the law are.”), and is not the ordinary verb of existence, but that more emphatic form which seems intended to suggest the idea of continuance, and might almost be rendered STILL ARE (or continue to be) ZEALOTS OF THE LAW, as they were perhaps before conversion.

They still observe the Law of Moses. The reference here is to the law respecting circumcision, sacrifices, distinctions of meats and days, festivals, etc. It may seem remarkable that they should still continue to observe those rites, since it was the manifest design of Christianity to abolish them. But we are to remember:
(1) That those rites had been appointed by God, and that they were trained to their observance.
(2) That the apostles conformed to them while they remained at Jerusalem, and did not deem it best to set themselves violently against them, Acts 3:1; Luke 24:53.
(3) That the question about their observance had never been agitated at Jerusalem. It was only among the Gentile converts that the question had risen, and there it must arise, for if they were to be observed, they must have been imposed upon them by authority.
(4) The decision of the council (Acts 15) related only to the Gentile converts. It did not touch the question whether those rites were to be observed by the Jewish converts.
(5) It was to be presumed that as the Christian religion became better understood-that as its large, free, and catholic nature became more and more developed the special institutions of Moses would be laid aside of course, without agitation and without tumult. Had the question been agitated at Jerusalem, it would have excited tenfold opposition to Christianity, and would have rent the Christian church into factions, and greatly retarded the advance of the Christian doctrine.
(6) We are to remember also:
That, in the arrangement of Divine Providence, the time was drawing near which was to destroy the temple, the city, and the nation, which was to put an end to sacrifices, and effectually to close forever the observance of the Mosaic rites. As this destruction was so near, and as it would be so effectual an argument against the observance of the Mosaic rites, the Great Head of the church did not suffer the question of their obligation to be needlessly agitated among the disciples at Jerusalem.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

These zealots have also been referred to as "Judaizers."

Question
Can a Jew who accepts the sacrifice of the lamb of God, Jesus, still practice Judaism if in the Synagogue they deny the Jesus is the Messiah and condemn Christians as heathen?
Answer:
If you are a messianic Jew the answer is yes, if you are a Gentile, no. Only God knows for sure.
(Paul the Learner)

What they have been told about you. Not, “They know that you....” Ya‘akov's (James) careful choice of the verb “kateecheetheesan” (from which comes the English word “catechism”), in the passive voice, means that he was fully aware that what these zealous Messianic Jewish brothers had heard about Sha’ul was not true. They had been told a lie, a rumor had spread, gossip had circulated. The problem, as becomes evident immediately, was not what Sha’ul had done (for he had not done the thing these people had been told), but how to deal with a situation where people are misinformed and feelings run high because they are zealots.

What had they been told?  That you are teaching all the Jews living among the Goyim Gentiles, living among the Gentiles, in the nations outside Israel, in the Diaspora, to apostatize (Greek apostasia means, literally, “standing apart” and implies rebellion) from Moshe Moses, that is, from the Torah God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai, from the Jewish Law. This apostasy consists of two parts, telling them not to have their sons circumcised and not to follow the traditions. These were also the issues in Acts 15.

From the Amplified Bible
(20)  And upon hearing it, they adored and exalted and praised and thanked God. And they said to [Paul], You see, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and all of them are enthusiastic upholders of the [Mosaic] Law.
(21)  Now they have been informed about you that you continually teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn back from and forsake Moses, advising them not to circumcise their children or pay any attention to the observance of the [Mosaic] customs.

Acts 21:22-24
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(22)  What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come.

Now, therefore, they have heard that you have come here.

(23)  Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow.

Do, therefore, what we tell you. We have four men who have vowed to purify themselves;

(24)  Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law.

Take them and go purify yourself with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; then every one will know that what has been said against you is false, and that you yourself have fulfilled the law and obey it.


The assembly must meet
Whether this refers to a regular convocation of the church, or to a tumult that would infallibly take place when it was heard that the apostle was come, we cannot pretend to say; but it is evident that James and the elders wished some prudent steps to be taken, in order to prevent an evil that they had too much reason to fear.
(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

There will be inevitably a tumultuous assemblage. It will be impossible to prevent that. The reasons were,
because the minds of the Jews were exceedingly agitated that one of their own countrymen had, as they understood, been advising apostasy from the religion of their fathers;
because this had been extensively done in many parts of the world, and with great success; and because Paul, having, as they believed, himself apostatized from the national religion, had become very conspicuous, and his very presence in Jerusalem, as in other places, would be likely to excite a tumult.
It was, therefore, the part of friendship to him and to the cause to devise some proper plan to prevent, if possible, the anticipated excitement.

We have four men
It is evident that James and the elders meant to say that these men were connected with them in the Christian church; and the fact shows that the Christians at Jerusalem did not disregard the institutions of Moses, and had not been so far enlightened in the doctrines of Christianity as to forsake yet the ceremonial rites of the Jews.

Taken a vow
Which have made a vow.
From the mention of shaving the head, it is evident that the vow which they had taken was that of the Nazarite; and that as the time of their vow was about expiring, they were about to be shaven, in accordance with the custom usual on such occasions. These persons Paul could join, and thus show decisively that he did not intend to undervalue or disparage the laws of Moses when those laws were understood as mere ceremonial observances.

Be purified with them
This is usually understood to mean, become a Nazarite like them, assuming the same obligation, and undergoing or performing all that they do. This agrees well with the general usage of the Greek word (be purified), and with its special application in the Septuagint of Numbers 6:3 to the Nazarite abstinence or separation. But as this hypothesis creates some difficulty in explaining the details that follow (vs. 26 in particular), some understand the verb (purify thyself) as signifying, not the Nazarite vow itself, but those preliminary rites of purification which preceded every solemn act of ceremonial worship, as required by the law (Exodus 19:10, 14) and still practiced in the time of Christ (John 11:55). The exhortation, thus explained, is not that he should make himself a Nazarite, but merely that he should perform such preparatory rites as would enable him to take part with these Nazarites in the conclusion of their solemn service, and to pay the expenses of their offerings and other ceremonial forms attending the conclusion of their vow.

Walk orderly
That you live in accordance with the real requirements of the Law of Moses. To walk, in the Scriptures, often denotes "to live, to act, and to conduct in a certain manner." All, probably, that they wished Paul to show by this was, that he was not an enemy of Moses. They who gave this counsel were Christians, and they could not wish him to do anything which would imply that he was not a Christian.

CHRISTIAN JEWISH INTERPRETATION
In spite of the arguments of v. 21 confirming Sha’ul's loyalty to Judaism and the Torah, many Christians suppose that when Sha’ul came to faith in Yeshua he stopped being Jewish, stopped observing the Law and began teaching other Jewish believers to do likewise. But those who hold this mistaken opinion have a serious problem with the ethics of these verses. If Sha’ul was not really Torah-observant, if he really did teach the Jews in the Diaspora not to have their children circumcised and not to follow the traditions, than he and Ya‘akov are exposed orchestrating a charade to deceive the Jewish believers zealous for the Torah into discounting the truth they had been told and believing a lie instead. Nothing in the whole New Testament justifies this understanding of how Ya‘akov, Sha’ul or any other believer functioned.
The exact details of this procedure, presumably a common one, are uncertain. However, the Torah states the central requirements:
“This is the torah of the nazir on the day when the period of his vow is completed.  He is to be brought to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting and is to present his offering to Adonai:
a yearling male lamb without blemish as a burnt offering,
a yearling ewe without blemish as a sin offering,
a ram without blemish as a peace offering,
a basket of matzah, loaves of fine flour mixed with oil, matzah spread with oil,
and their grain offering and drink offerings.”
 (Numbers 6:13-15)
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

From the Amplified Bible
(22)  What then [is best that] should be done? A multitude will come together, for they will surely hear that you have arrived.
(23)  Therefore do just what we tell you. With us are four men who have taken a vow upon themselves.
(24)  Take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses [for the temple offering], so that they may have their heads shaved. Thus everybody will know that there is no truth in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself walk in observance of the Law.

Acts 21:25
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(25)  But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality."

As for the believers amongst the Gentiles, we have written that they should abstain from the things sacrificed to idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.


Concerning the Gentiles
The Gentile converts. It might be expedient for Paul to do what could not be enjoined on the Gentiles. They could not command the Gentile converts to observe those ceremonies, while yet it might be proper, for the sake of peace, that the converts to Christianity from among the Jews should regard them. The conduct of the Christians at Jerusalem in giving this advice, and of Paul in following it, may be easily vindicated. If it be objected, as it has been by infidels, that it looks like double-dealing; that it was designed to deceive the Jews in Jerusalem, and to make them believe that Paul actually conformed to the ceremonial law, when his conduct among the Gentiles showed that he did not, we may reply:
(1) That the observance of that law was not necessary in order to salvation;
(2) That it would have been improper to have enjoined its observance on the Gentile converts as necessary, and therefore it was never done;
(3) That when the Jews urged its observance as necessary to justification and salvation, Paul strenuously opposed this view of it everywhere;
(4) Yet that, as a matter of expediency, he did not oppose its being observed either by the Jews, or by the converts made among the Jews. In fact, there is other evidence besides the case before us that Paul himself continued to observe some, at least, of the Jewish rites, and his conduct in public at Jerusalem was in strict accordance with his conduct in other places. See Acts 18:18.
The sum of the whole matter is this, that
when the observance of the Jewish ceremonial law was urged as necessary to justification and acceptance with God, Paul resisted it;
when it was demanded that its observance should be enjoined on the Gentiles, he opposed it;
in all other cases he made no opposition to it, and was ready himself to comply with it, and willing that others should also.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

This repeats the din (Hebrew for “ruling,” halakhic decision) of 15:19-20&NN and 15:28-29, reassuring Gentiles that the preceding three verses dealing with the situation of Messianic Jews do not affect the earlier determination that Gentiles can become Christians without becoming Jews.
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

We have written
This shows that, with all their conciliation to Jewish prejudice, the Church of Jerusalem was taught to adhere to the decision of the famous council held there (Acts 15:20,29).

From the Amplified Bible
(25)  But with regard to the Gentiles who have believed (adhered to, trusted in, and relied on Christ), we have sent them a letter with our decision that they should keep themselves free from anything that has been sacrificed to idols and from [tasting] blood and [eating the meat of animals] which have been strangled and from all impurity and sexual immorality.



PAUL  ARRESTED  IN  THE  TEMPLE

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Acts 21:26
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(26)  Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them.

Then Paul took the men and on the next day he was purified with them and he entered into the temple, informing them how to complete the days of purification until the gift of every one of them was offered.


Then Paul took the men
Took them to himself; united with them in observing the ceremonies connected with their vow. To transactions like this he refers in 1 Cor 9:20: "And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the Law, as under the Law, that I might gain them that are under the Law." Thus, it has always been found necessary, in propagating the gospel among the pagan, not to offend them needlessly, but to conform to their innocent customs in regard to dress, language, modes of traveling, sitting, eating, etc. Paul did nothing more than this. He violated none of the dictates of honesty and truth.

To announce
Greek: signifying or making known.  That is, he announced to the priests in the temple his purpose of observing this vow with the four men, according to the law respecting the Nazarite. It was proper that such an announcement should be made beforehand, in order that the priests might know that all the ceremonies required had been observed.

These precautions are to protect Paul from false accusations, especially if he is going to move about publicly in the temple courts. Paul pays the fees for the devout Jerusalem Christians who are completing a Nazarite vow; the Greek language here suggests that he may also be paying for an earlier vow he completed while unable to come to Palestine (18:18). One shaved one's head on the seventh day of a vow and offered sacrifice in the temple on the eighth day (Numbers 6:1-21), but the minimum period of the vow according to ritual law seems to have been thirty days, so he did not join them in vows only at this point. Those (like Agrippa I) who used their own funds to pay the expenses of Nazarites were considered pious.
(from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)

The accusation against Sha’ul, then, was that he was a traitor to the Jewish people who taught Jews all over the Diaspora to cease functioning as Jews. Here are three points to refute the charges:
(1) Sha’ul himself did not violate the Torah but continued to keep it after coming to trust in Yeshua.
He had Timothy circumcised (16:3).
He kept numerous Jewish customs—
taking a vow (18:18&N),
observing festivals (20:16&N),
paying for the vow-ending sacrifices of four men at the Temple (vv. 23-27 below),
evidently fasting on Yom-Kippur (27:9&N).
He regularly attended synagogue services and was welcome to teach in them (17:2, etc.).
As a Messianic Jew he remained a Pharisee (23:6&N). Thus he could say
that he believed everything that accords with the Torah (24:14),
that he had committed no offense against the Torah (25:8),
and that he had a clear conscience in the sight of God and man (24:16);
against his claims his accusers failed to make a case in court (26:31-32). At the end of his ministry he continued to assert exactly the opposite of what he is charged with here, saying, “I have done nothing against either our people or the traditions of our fathers” (28:17). For still more evidence see 13:9.
(2) Sha’ul's teaching
not to circumcise (1 Corinthians 7:18&N; Galatians 5:2-6&NN, 6:12-15&NN)
and not to observe Jewish laws and customs (Galatians 4:8-11&NN, Colossians 2:16-23&NN)
were never directed to Jews but invariably and only to Gentiles. Gentiles had to be reassured that they were saved and incorporated into the people of God by trusting God through the Messiah Yeshua, not by observing this or that set of Jewish practices or by converting to Judaism; for, although Judaism acknowledged that the righteous Gentile had a share in the world to come, there was in the first century a strong movement for Jewish proselytism (see Mt 23:15&N).
(3) Sha’ul did not need to instruct Diaspora Jews to observe the Law, for there was no shortage of rabbis and teachers to exhort them (Acts 15:21). Moreover, what in the Tanakh could be clearer than that Jews are expected to keep the Torah? The New Testament does not repeat truths already evident from the Tanakh; it assumes them. Sha’ul assumed them too.
Thus we dispose of the indictment against Sha’ul.
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

Excerpts from "The Apostle: A Life of Paul"
Paul and the accredited representatives of the Gentile churches were formally received by James the Lord's brother and the Jerusalem elders to hand over the gift of alms.  Peter and the other apostles were abroad spreading the gospel; Thomas, according to tradition, had already reached northern India.  The ascetic James continued to maintain a cautious policy so that the priests and rulers of the nation should tolerate those Jews, a large number, who acknowledged Jesus as Messiah while observing the traditions of their ancestors.  Most of the elders were convinced that Paul did his best to destroy this policy wherever he went. Paul knew their estimate of him and for months had been nervous lest they should not accept the gift in the spirit in which Europe and Asia offered it.
Luke noted the grave kiss of peace between Paul and each elder; next the delegates brought forward their moneybags.  Then Paul narrated, detail by detail, "the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry."  It was a missionary speech with a plain implication, that the elders of the over weighted Jerusalem congregation should spur their people to go out and follow up the initiative won by Paul among the Gentiles, until there should be one flock under the one Shepherd.
The reaction was disappointing.  The elders made appropriate noises of praise to God and turned promptly to a much more pressing affair.
"Brother," they addressed Paul, "you see how many thousands of converts we have among the Jews, all of them staunch upholders of the Law. Now, they have been given certain information about you: it is said you teach all the Jews in the Gentile world to turn their backs on Moses, telling them to give up circumcising their children and following our way of life."  ...They felt some action by Paul, rather than a pronouncement of their own, must remove the misconception.  Paul must follow a current practice whereby rich men showed their love of the Law by paying the expenses and sharing the vigil of poor men.  They had four of their number under a Nazarite vow who had incurred ritual defilement but were too poor to buy the necessary sacrificial birds and animals to purge the defilement and complete the days of the vow.
Such was his love for the Jews that he agreed to the elders' plan, if it might somehow help more Jews to believe in Christ. In no way was his love for the Jews more evident than at Jerusalem at the Pentecost of A.D. 57.
(From "The Apostle: A Life of Paul," by John Pollock; RiverOak Publishing, a division of Cook Communication Ministries)

From the Amplified Bible
(26)  Then Paul took the [four] men with him and the following day [he went through the rites of] purifying himself along with them. And they entered the temple to give notice when the days of purification (the ending of each vow) would be fulfilled and the usual offering could be presented on behalf of each of them.

Acts 21:27-29
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(27)  Now when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him,

And when the seventh day approached, and the Jews from Asia Minor saw him in the temple, they stirred up all the people against him and laid hands on him,

(28)  crying out, "Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place."

And cried out, saying, Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches everywhere against our people, against the law, and against this place; and further, he has brought Arameans into the temple and has defiled this holy place.

(29)  (For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)

For they had previously seen Trophimus, the Ephesian, with him in the city, and they thought he had entered into the temple with Paul.


Seven days
Greek: "as the seven days were about to be fulfilled" - emellon (NT: 3195) sunteleisthai (NT: 4931).
The seven days which were to complete the observance of the vow, Acts 21:26. Perhaps the whole observance in this case was intended to be but seven days, as the time of such a vow was voluntary. The translation, "were almost ended," is not quite correct. The Greek implies no more than that the period of the seven days was about to be accomp1ished, without implying that it was near the close of them when he was seized. By comparing the following places, Acts 21:18, 26; 22:30; 23:12, 32; 24:1, 11, it appears that the time of his seizure must have been near the beginning of those days (Doddridge).
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Jews from Asia
"Asia" means the Roman province of Asia, in what is now western Turkey.

These pursued him with the most deliberate and persevering malice in every place; and it appears that it was through them that the false reports were sent to and circulated through Jerusalem.
(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

The Jews here mentioned were in all likelihood Ephesian Jews, since they recognized the Ephesian Trophimus; and if so, we may well suppose that, bearing Paul a grudge ever since the events recorded in Acts 19:9, etc., they would be the first to instigate a tumult against him.
(from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Five lies
Sha’ul did not teach against the Jewish people
Sha’ul did not teach against the Torah
Sha’ul did not teach against the Temple
Sha’ul did not bring some Goyim (Greek) into the Temple
Sha’ul did not defile the Temple
The accusations were precisely the ones most likely to stir up feeling against him. A Gentile entering the Temple's inner court would ceremonially defile it.
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

They probably thought that since these accusations worked against Stephen (Acts 6:14), they would most likely work against Paul.

Everything against the Law would be interpreted also as being against the temple, as most of the ceremonies required in the Law were celebrated there.

The temple was surrounded by various areas called courts. The outermost of these courts was called the court of the Gentiles, and into that it was lawful for the Gentiles to enter. But the word "temple" here refers, doubtless, to the parts of the area appropriated especially to the Israelites, and which it was unlawful for a Gentile to enter.   No greater defilement, in their view, could be conceived. No more effective appeal could be made to the passions of the people than this.

Trophimus
He had accompanied Paul on his way from Ephesus, Acts 20:4.
Ephesus was the chief city of the Roman province of Asia, and the Jewish community there knew Paul and his companions well (19:33-34; cf. 18:19-21, 26). Although the assumption of these Jews from Asia is false, it is occasioned by Paul's relationships with Gentile Christians, which he would not compromise.

Whom they supposed
This is a most striking illustration of the manner in which accusations are often brought against others. They had seen him with Paul in the city; they inferred, therefore, that he had been with him in the temple. They did not even pretend that they had seen him in the temple; but the inference was enough to inflame the angry and excitable passions of the multitude.

The Jews Misunderstood Paul's Ministry
In the temple, separating the court of the Gentiles from the other courts, stood a wall beyond which no Gentile was allowed to go (note Ephesians 2:14). On the wall was this solemn inscription: "No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the sanctuary and enclosure. Anyone who is caught so doing will have himself to blame for his ensuing death." The Romans had granted the Jewish religious leaders authority to deal with anybody who broke this law, and this included the right of execution. This law plays an important role in what happened to Paul a week after he and the four Nazarites began their purification ceremonies.
Some Jews from Asia saw Paul in the temple and jumped to the conclusion that he had polluted their sacred building by bringing Gentiles past the barricade. It is likely that these Jews came from Ephesus, because they recognized Paul's friend Trophimus, who came from Ephesus. With their emotions running at full speed, and their brains in neutral, these men argued:
(1) Wherever Paul went, his Gentile friends went
(2) Paul was seen in the temple; therefore, his friends had been in the temple too!
Such is the logic of prejudice.
They seized Paul and would have killed him had the Roman guards not intervened in the nick of time. (At least 1,000 soldiers were stationed in the Antonia Fortress at the northwest corner of the temple area.) The temple crowd was in an uproar, completely ignorant of what was going on. The scene reminds you of the riot in Ephesus. Compare Acts 21:30 with Acts 19:29, and compare Acts 21:34 with Acts 19:32. It required the chief captain (Claudius Lysias, Acts 23:26), 2 centurions, and perhaps 200 soldiers to get the mob under control and to rescue Paul. The captain actually thought Paul was an Egyptian rebel who was wanted by the Romans for inciting a revolt (Acts 21:38). This explains why he had Paul bound with two chains (see Acts 21:11).
When Claudius interrogated the people, they could not explain what caused the riot because they did not really know. The original troublemakers must have escaped during the great excitement knowing that they could not actually substantiate their charges. Since Claudius could get no help from the people in the temple, he decided to interrogate Paul; so his soldiers carried Paul from the court of the Gentiles up the stairs into the barracks. As Paul was borne away, the crowd shouted angrily, "Away with him!" This again reminds us of our Lord's arrest and trial (Luke 23:18,21; John 19:15).
(From The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)


Remember certain things had not happened as yet:
1.  Jerusalem was not yet destroyed (see Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21).
2. The Temple was still in use, even though God would not accept any offering that was made, since His offering was rejected by the nation of Israel.
3. The book of Hebrews had as yet not been written to explain how Jesus fulfilled all of the Law and Prophets, and that He was greater than them all.
4. The Jewish nation still had to follow the ‘school master’ the Law of Moses, until they could see clearly the revelation of the Messiah and His message.
5. Following the Law and the Tanakh [old testament scriptures] was only proper in our understanding of the New Testament scriptures.
6. God did not do away with the nation of Israel as we see in Revelation 7, 14 [the 144,000 Jews].
7. Gentiles are not Jews and the Jews are not Gentiles.
Paul the Learner

From the Amplified Bible
(27)  When the seven days were drawing to a close, some of the Jews from [the province of] Asia, who had caught sight of Paul in the temple, incited all the rabble and laid hands on him,
(28)  Shouting, Men of Israel, help! [Help!] This is the man who is teaching everybody everywhere against the people and the Law and this place! Moreover, he has also [actually] brought Greeks into the temple; he has desecrated and polluted this holy place!
(29)  For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and they supposed that he had brought the man into the temple [into the inner court forbidden to Gentiles].

Acts 21:30 & 31
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(30)  And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut.

So the whole city was in a tumult, and all the people ran together; they seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple; and the doors were immediately shut.

(31)  Now as they were seeking to kill him, news came to the commander of the garrison that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.

And as the mob sought to kill him, the news reached the captain of the company that all the city was in an uproar.


The city was disturbed
Was agitated; was thrown into commotion.

Doors were shut
They dragged Paul "out of the temple" into the outer Court of the Gentiles. The sagan, or chief of the temple guard, apparently ordered the doors at the Court of the Women shut to keep the violence certain to ensue from spilling into the temple proper. (*Josephus regarded the shedding of blood in the sanctuary as the "abomination of desolation," so keeping bloodshed from the sacred precincts was important.)
(from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)

The shutting of the doors has been variously understood:
1, Some see it as intended to prevent Paul’s taking refuge at the altar, as Adonijah and Joab did (1 Kings 1:50, 53; 2:28, 29), although the law of Moses recognizes no right of asylum, except in the case of unpremeditated homicide (Exodus 21:12-14).
2. Others suppose that it was meant to save the sacred precincts from the defilement of Paul’s blood, whom they were now about to put to death.
3. A third opinion is that the shutting of the doors, during the time of ceremonial service, was a formal suspension of that service.
4. Equally satisfactory with any of these explanations is the supposition, that the Priests or Levites upon duty in the temple, when they saw Paul violently dragged out, shut the doors, in order to exclude both him and his assailants, with a view not only to their own security, but also to preserve the sanctuary from being made the scene of a tumultuous brawl.

The Commander
Greek – chiliarchos – or over 1,000 men. In the Roman army he was called a tribune (from the Latin).

Reference is made to this guard several times in the New Testament, Matt 27:65-66; John 18:12; Acts 5:26. The word denotes properly "one who commanded 1,000 men." The band speira (NT:4686) was the tenth part of a legion, and consisted sometimes of four hundred and twenty-five soldiers, at others of five hundred, and at others of six hundred, according to the size of the legion. The name of this captain was Claudius Lysias, Acts 23:26.

This band or body of Roman soldiers was stationed in the castle Antonia, on the north of the temple. This was built by John Hyrcanus, high priest of the Jews, and was by him called Baris. It was beautified and strengthened by Herod the Great, and was called Antonia in honor of his friend, Mark Antony. Josephus describes this castle as consisting of four towers, one of which overlooked the temple, and which he says was 70 cubits high (Jewish Wars, book 5, chapter 5, section 8). In this castle a guard of Roman soldiers was stationed to secure the temple and to maintain the peace.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

On the northern part of the Temple Mount was the fortress Antonia, which housed a permanent Roman garrison of six hundred men (a cohort); from its towers guards would readily notice disturbances. To rush into the outer court of the temple, they had only to rush down the stairs from the fortress. The "commander" is a chiliarch, or tribune, literally commander of one thousand but actually of six hundred troops. Tribunes were drawn from the small, well-to-do Roman "middle" class.

Under Cumanus, the Roman governor immediately preceding Felix (23:24), a Roman soldier lewdly exposed himself in the temple area; Josephus estimated that ten thousand people were trampled to death in the ensuing riot. When another soldier burned a Jewish law scroll, Cumanus acceded to the crowds' demands and executed him. Hostility against Gentiles and collaborators with Gentiles had been mounting, and in less than a decade would lead to a war that would produce massacres (over twenty thousand Jews slaughtered in Caesarea in an hour) and culminate in the temple's destruction.
(from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)                                                                   

From the Amplified Bible
(30)  Then the whole city was aroused and thrown into confusion, and the people rushed together; they laid hands on Paul and dragged him outside the temple, and immediately the gates were closed.
(31)  Now while they were trying to kill him, word came to the commandant of the regular Roman garrison that the whole of Jerusalem was in a state of ferment.

Acts 21:32-36
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(32)  He immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them. And when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.

He immediately took a centurion and many soldiers, and ran down to them; and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they ceased beating Paul.

(33)  Then the commander came near and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and he asked who he was and what he had done.

Then the chief captain came near him and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains. Then he inquired, Who is he and what has he done?

(34)  And some among the multitude cried one thing and some another.
So when he could not ascertain the truth because of the tumult, he commanded him to be taken into the barracks.

And some of the mob cried against him one thing, some another; and because of their confusion he was unable to know what was true, so he commanded him to be taken to headquarters.

(35)  When he reached the stairs, he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob.

And when Paul reached the stairs, the soldiers carried him because of the violence of the people,

(36)  For the multitude of the people followed after, crying out, "Away with him!"

For a great many people followed after, crying and saying, Away with him.


Northwest of the temple area was the Tower of Antonia, which housed a cohort of Roman soldiers under a military tribune. This tower was connected with the temple court by two flights of stairs, by which quick access could be had in case of trouble. A cohort consisted of a thousand men. Now as Paul was about to be killed by mob action, word came to the chiliarch (AV, chief captain; RSV, tribune) of the garrison that a riot was occurring. He took a band of at least 200 men with their centurions and intervened just in time to save Paul's life. 33. He arrested Paul, taking him into protective custody, and commanded that he be chained to two soldiers for safekeeping.
(from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1962 by Moody Press. All rights reserved.)

Some Greek writers of this period liked to draw parallels between analogous historical figures; Luke's record here parallels Jesus and Paul (Luke 23:18).
(from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)

Bound with two chains
To show to the enraged multitude that he did not intend to rescue anyone from justice, but to keep the peace. Paul's being thus bound would convince them of his determination that justice should be done in the case. Probably he was bound between two soldiers, his right arm to the left arm of the one, and his left arm to the right arm of the other.  Or, if his hands and feet were bound, it is evident that it was so done that he was able still to walk. This was in accordance with the prediction of Agabus, Acts 21:11.

The barracks
The tower of Antonia, where the guard was kept.

The stairs
The stairs which led from the temple to the castle of Antonia.
Josephus says (Jewish Wars, book 5, chapter 5, section 8), that the castle of Antonia "was situated at the corner of two cloisters of the temple, of that on the west, and of that on the north; it was erected on a rock of 50 cubits (75 feet) in height, and was on a great precipice. On the corner where it joined to the two cloisters of the temple, it had passages down to them both, through which the guards went several ways among the cloisters with their arms, on the Jewish festivals, etc." It was on these stairs, as the soldiers were returning, that the tumult was so great, or the crowd so dense, that they were obliged to hear Paul along to rescue him from their violence.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(32)  So immediately he took soldiers and centurions and hurried down among them; and when the people saw the commandant and the troops, they stopped beating Paul.
(33)  Then the commandant approached and arrested Paul and ordered that he be secured with two chains. He then inquired who he was and what he had done.
(34)  Some in the crowd kept shouting back one thing and others something else, and since he could not ascertain the facts because of the furor, he ordered that Paul be removed to the barracks.
(35)  And when [Paul] came to mount the steps, he was actually being carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob;
(36)  For the mass of the people kept following them, shouting, Away with him! [Kill him!]



PAUL  ADDRESSES  THE  JERUSALEM  MOB

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Acts 21:37-40
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(37)  Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, "May I speak to you?" He replied, "Can you speak Greek?

And as Paul was about to be led into headquarters, he said to the chief captain, May I speak to you? The captain said, Can you speak Greek?

(38)  Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?"

Are you not that Egyptian who some time ago created disturbances and led out into the desert four thousand malefactors?

(39)  But Paul said, "I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people."

But Paul said, I am a Jew of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of a well-known city; I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.

(40)  So when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying,

And when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and beckoned with his hand to them. And when they were quiet he spoke to them in the Hebrew (Aramaic) tongue and said to them,


From IVP Bible Background Commentary
In the eastern part of the empire, Latin was confined to use in the military and in documents concerning Roman citizens. The public administration of Syria-Palestine used Greek, which was also the first language of the Jerusalem aristocracy, and most Jewish people in Palestine knew at least some Greek. The "tribune" (NRSV) or "commander" assumes that Paul is a particular troublemaker; most rabble-rousers he would know would have spoken Aramaic by choice. But most Egyptian business documents of this period were in Greek, which seems to have been the main language there; he thus should not be surprised that one he supposes to be an Egyptian speaks Greek. The point is not that Paul speaks Greek; it is that he speaks it without an accent, like someone educated and fluent in the language, which the tribune assumes the Egyptian Jew who had caused problems would not be.
Josephus wrote of a false prophet from Egypt who gained a following of roughly thirty thousand (a figure less realistic than those given in Acts). The Roman governor Felix (23:24) defeated him, but the Egyptian himself escaped. Most of the messianic-prophetic figures reported in this period gained followings in the "wilderness" ("desert" - NIV), perhaps expecting deliverance to come like a new exodus under a new Moses.
The word for "assassins" (NASB) here is sicarii. These were Jewish terrorists who carried curved daggers under their cloaks and brutally stabbed to death aristocrats in the midst of crowds in the temple, then slipped away unseen. A few years after this encounter they kidnapped people to secure the release of their own adherents held by the procurator. Josephus's final reports of them are at the fortress Masada, where they finally perished in A.D. 73 A.D.
Citizenship in a Greek city gave one higher status than the many who were merely "residents" of the city (who were in turn considered above transients and rural people). One became a citizen only by birth in a citizen family or as a grant from the city authorities. City pride and rivalry were fierce in antiquity, especially in Asia Minor, and Tarsus was a prominent city. Tarsus's citizens were not automatically Roman citizens (it was not a Roman colony), but Paul saves his disclosure of Roman citizenship as a trump card in case he needs it later.
The tribune grants Paul permission to speak, probably hoping that he will clarify his identity to a crowd he thinks has wrongly supposed him a leader of temple assassins. "Hebrew" here is probably a loose expression for *Aramaic (so NIV), the vernacular of much of rural Syria-Palestine and all lands to the east. It is especially significant for Paul's purposes that Aramaic was the vernacular of the Jewish nationalists, and that Paul speaks it as well as they. The tribune would not understand any of what Paul is saying, however; Aramaic is similar to Hebrew, but bears little relation to Latin and Greek (see 22:24).
(from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)

From the Jewish New Testament Commentary
That Egyptian. The first-century historian Josephus reports that he came to Jerusalem around 54 C. E., during the time of Felix (23:24):
“At this time someone came out of Egypt who said he was a prophet and advised the masses of the common people to go with him to the Mount of Olives, where he would show them how, at his command, the walls of Jerusalem would fall down; and he promised he would enable them to enter the city through those walls after they had fallen down. When Felix was informed of these things, he ordered his soldiers to take their weapons, and he came against them from Jerusalem with a great number of horsemen and footmen. He attacked the Egyptian and the people with him, slaying four hundred of them and taking two hundred alive. The Egyptian himself escaped from the battle but did not appear any more.” (Condensed from Antiquities of the Jews 20:8 :6)
In Hebrew, literally, “in the Hebrew language,” which could have been either the Aramaic heard more often in public or the Hebrew still spoken in public but more often at home.
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

HISTORICAL OUTLOOK FROM 400 A. D. BY ARCHBISHOP JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
Homily 46 - Acts 21:37-40
They feared he might escape them. Observe how submissively Paul speaks to the tribune. "May I speak unto thee? Then art not thou that Egyptian?" (v. 37, 38.) This Egyptian, namely, was a cheat and impostor, and the devil expected to cast a cloud over (the Gospel) through him, and implicate both Christ and His Apostles in the charges pertaining to those (imposters): but he prevailed nothing, nay the truth became even more brilliant, being nothing defeated by the machinations of the devil, nay rather shining forth all the more. Since if there had not been impostors, and then these (Christ and His Apostles) had prevailed, perhaps some one might have laid hold upon this: but when those impostors did actually appear, this is the wonder. "In order," says (the Apostle), "that they which are approved may be made manifest." (1 Corinthians 11:19.)
Homily 47 - Acts 21:39, 40
Observe how, when he discourses to those that are without, he does not decline availing himself of the aids afforded by the laws. Here he awes the tribune by the name of his city. And again, elsewhere he said, "Openly, un-condemned, Romans as we are, they have cast us into prison." (ch. 19:37.) For since the tribune said, "Art thou that Egyptian?" he immediately drew him off from that surmise: then, that he may not be thought to deny his nation, he says at once, "I am a Jew:" he means his religion. What then? he did not deny (that he was a Christian): God forbid: for he was both a Jew and a Christian, observing what things he ought: since indeed he, most of all men, did obey the law: as in fact he elsewhere calls himself, "Under the law to Christ." (1 Corinthians 9:21.)
What is this, I pray? The man that believes in Christ. And when discoursing with Peter, he says: "We, Jews by nature.-But I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people." (Galatians 2:15.) And this is a proof, that he does not speak lies, seeing he takes all as his witnesses. Observe again how mildly he speaks. This again is a very strong argument that he is chargeable with no crime, his being so ready to make his defense, and his wishing to come to discourse with the people of the Jews. See a man well-prepared! - Mark the providential ordering of the thing: unless the tribune had come, unless he had bound him, he would not have desired to speak for his defense, he would not have obtained the silence he did. "Standing on the stairs." Then there was the additional facility afforded by the locality, that he should have a high place to harangue them from-in chains too!
What spectacle could be equal to this, to see Paul, bound with two chains, and haranguing the people! (To see him,) how he was not a whit perturbed, not a whit confused; how, seeing as he did so great a multitude all hostility against him, the ruler standing by, he first of all made them desist from their anger: then, how prudently (he does this). Just what he does in his Epistle to the Hebrews, the same he does here: first he attracts them by the sound of their common mother tongue: then by his mildness itself. "He spake unto them," it says, "in the Hebrew tongue…”
(From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1, Volume 11, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Note: As we continue through the book of Acts, you will notice the five apologies (as they were called in the early centuries), or defenses of Paul:
1. Before the Jewish Mob (Acts 22:1-24)
2. Before Ananias and the Sanhedrin (Acts 22:30-23:10)
3. Before Felix (Acts 24:1-27)
4. Before Festus (Acts 25:1-12)
5. Before King Agrippa (Acts 25:23-26:32)

From the Amplified Bible
(37)  Just as Paul was about to be taken into the barracks, he asked the commandant, May I say something to you? And the man replied, Can you speak Greek?
(38)  Are you not then [as I supposed] the Egyptian who not long ago stirred up a rebellion and led those 4,000 men who were cutthroats out into the wilderness (desert)?
(39)  Paul answered, I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no insignificant or undistinguished city. I beg you, allow me to address the people.
(40)  And when the man had granted him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, gestured with his hand to the people; and there was a great hush. Then he spoke to them in the Hebrew dialect, saying:



(End of Chapter Twenty One)

 

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