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Bible Commentaries
Acts 28

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

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St. Paul in Jerusalem (Chs 21:17-28:16)

17-40. Disturbances in the Temple. St Paul arrested.

18. James] The Lord’s ’brother,’ the acknowledged head of the Church of Jerusalem: cp. Acts 15:13, etc.

19. Particularly] i.e. in minute detail.

20. The Lord (i.e. Jesus)] RV ’God.’

23, 24. The four men were Nazirites (see Numbers 6), and St. Paul was advised to pay for their sacrifices, and to associate himself with their Nazirite vow during the week that it had still to run (see Acts 21:27). By thus becoming a Nazirite, and defraying the sacrificial expenses of these poorer Nazirites (the latter a most meritorious work, according to contemporary opinion; see Jos. ’Ant.’

19.16.1), St. Paul would prove himself a good Jew as well as a good Christian.

The Jewish Christians were suspicious of St. Paul, not because he refused to circumcise his Gentile converts (this point had already been settled at the Council of Jerusalem), but because it was reported that he advised even Jews to neglect the observance of the Law (Acts 21:21). The charge was false in point of fact, but it had this amount of truth in it, that St. Paul’s principle that a man is saved by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law, would naturally lead to the abandonment of the ceremonial Law even by Jews.

25. See Acts 15.

26. Entered, etc.] We may freely translate this difficult passage thus: ’He entered into the Temple, informing the priests that within seven days (see Acts 21:27) the days of their purification would be accomplished; and he purposed to remain with them in the Temple for a whole week, until the legal sacrifice had been offered for each one of them.’ 27f.; The outer court of the Temple was called ’the Court of the Gentiles.’ Within this was ’the Court of Israel,’ separated from it by a high wall with doors (see Acts 21:30). Inscriptions upon the barrier denounced the penalty of death upon all Gentile intruders. One of these has been preserved, and runs: ’No alien is to pass within the fence and enclosure round the Temple. Whosoever shall be taken shall be responsible to himself alone for the death which will ensue.’ See also Jos. ’Ant.’


29. Trophimus] see on Acts 20:4.

30. They drew him and all his companions ’out of the Temple,’ i.e. out of the Court of Israel, and closed the doors of this court, ostensibly to prevent any more Gentiles from entering.

31. Went about to] i.e. were seeking to. The chief captain of the band] rather, ’the tribune of the Roman cohort,’ which was stationed in the fortress Antonia, adjoining the Temple.

34. Castle] lit. ’encampment.’ The fortress Antonia is meant.

36. Away with him] i.e. Slay him.

38. Art not thou] rather, ’Thou art not then the Egyptian,’ etc. Four thousand men] rather, the four thousand men of the Sicarii. The Sicarii (i.e. assassins) were the extreme members of the ’zealot’ party. They carried out their ’national’ policy by openly assassinating influential Jews supposed to be friendly to Rome. Josephus says, ’But an Egyptian false prophet did the Jews more mischief still. He got together 30,000 deluded ment whom he led round from the wilderness to the Mount of Olives, and intended to break into Jerusalem by force from that place. He said that at his command the walls of Jerusalem would fall down’ (’War,’

2. 13. 5; ’Ant.’

20.8. 6). Felix dispersed them, but the Egyptian escaped.

39. St. Paul was not without civic pride. Tarsus was the seat of a famous university, and had produced several of the most eminent Stoic philosophers. On its coins it proudly boasted itself ’Self-Governing Metropolis.’ Citizenship of Tarsus was confined to a select few of the inhabitants, so that its possession was proof of respectability and social standing.

Verses 1-31

St. Paul a Prisoner at Rome

1. They.. they] RV ’we.. we.’ Melita] RM ’Melitene.’ Melita is certainly Malta, and not (as has been erroneously supposed) Meleda off the Illyrian coast. Tradition correctly locates the shipwreck in St. Paul’s Bay, about 8 m. NW. of Valetta.

2. The barbarous people] RV ’the barbarians.’ The Gk. word does not imply that they were uncivilised, but only that they were neither Greeks nor Romans.

3. Cp. Mark 16:18. As St. Paul was arranging the faggot on the fire, the viper, feeling the heat, glided out of the faggot and bit the Apostle’s hand. There are now no vipers in Malta, but the clearing of the ancient forests, and the great density of the population, are sufficient to account for their disappearance.

4. Vengeance] rather, ’Justice’ (personified as a goddess). A god] cp. the events at Lystra (Acts 14:11), which also illustrate the popular levity of judgment.

7. The chief man] lit. ’the first man.’ Inscriptions show that this title is technically correct. Malta was part of the province of Sicily, and Publius was a subordinate of the praetor of Sicily. Tradition places his house at Città-Vecchia.

8. Bloody flux] RV ’dysentery.’ Observe in this v. the technical medical language.

9. Others] We have here the firsthand evidence of a competent medical witness to the reality of St. Paul’s miraculous cures.

11. After three months] i.e. probably somewhat early in February, before the usual time of navigation. Castor and Pollux] (lit. ’the Dioscuri’), the twin sons of Jupiter, and tutelary deities of sailors.

12. Landing] RV ’touching.’ Syracuse] 100 m. N. of Malta, the capital of Sicily, and a Roman colony.

13. Fetched a compass] i.e. made a circuit. Rhegium] an ancient Gk. colony situated on the Italian side of the Straits of Messina, near the dreaded rock of Scylla, and the whirlpool of Charybdis. Puteoli] also called Dicæarchia, was (with Ostia) the great corn mart of Italy, where the Alexandrian cornships discharged their cargoes. It lay on the N. shore of the Bay of Naples, and contained a certain number of Jews.

15. Appii forum] RV ’the Market of Appius,’ was 43 Roman m. S. of Rome on the great Appian Road, the main line of communication between Rome and the East. The Three Taverns] 10 Roman miles from the capital.

Verses 16-31

St. Paul in Rome (28:16-31)

16. The captain of the guard] either the captain of the prætorian guard (proefectus proetorio), or, more probably, the captain of the troops called frumentarii, whose camp was on the Coelian hill: see on Acts 27:1. To dwell by himself] This exceptional treatment was due to the favourable report of Festus and the goodwill of the centurion.

17. Called the chief of the Jews together] or, ’called together the Jewish community first,’ in accordance with his usual plan of preaching to the Jews before he preached to the Gentiles.

21. It is somewhat strange that the chief priests did not write. Perhaps they did, but the letter was delayed, or miscarried.

22. The Jews profess no first-hand knowledge of the Christians, hence it is evident that at Rome the Church and the Synagogue were already definitely separated. The expulsion of the Jews from Rome by Claudius is probably the cause of this. There being no Jewish community, the infant Church started as a mainly non-Jewish body.

25. See Isaiah 6:9. Our fathers] RV ’your fathers.’ St. Paul renounces fellowship with the unbelieving Jews.

29. This v. is omitted by important ancient authorities, but much is to be said for its genuineness.

30. Two whole years] Such delays of justice were not unusual. In this case the delay was apparently caused, (1) by the loss of the official papers in the wreck, (2) by the non-appearance of the accusers, (3) by the difficulty of getting together the witnesses. During this imprisonment St. Paul wrote the Epistles to the Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon. At his first trial he was acquitted, and released. A few years later he was again arrested, brought to trial at Rome, condemned, and executed.

On Rome and the Roman Church, see the Intro, to the Epistle to the Romans.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Acts 28". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/acts-28.html. 1909.
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