Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth;Acts 18:1-11. Paul goes from Athens to Corinth, labours there with his own hands for his maintenance. He is Encouraged in his preaching by a Vision of the Lord
1. After these things Paul departed] The best authorities omit the name of the Apostle, merely reading “he departed.” So R. V.
came to Corinth] As Athens was the seat of culture, so Corinth was the seat of commerce in the south of Greece. The city, at this time the political capital of Greece and the residence of the Roman pro-consul, stood on the isthmus which united the Peloponnesus to the mainland, and through it all land traffic between the peninsula and the rest of Greece must pass, while its two harbours, one on each side of the neck of land on which Corinth stood, made it the resort of seafaring traders both from east and west. Of Lechæum, the western port, on the Corinthian gulf, we have no mention in the New Testament, but Cenchreæ, the harbour on the Saronic gulf, by which communication with the East was kept up, is mentioned in Acts 18:18. The city was also made famous for its connexion with the Isthmian games, from which St Paul in his Epistles draws frequent illustrations when writing to the Corinthian Church. (See 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, &c.) For further particulars of the history of Corinth see Dict. of Bible, s. v.
And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.2. a certain Jew named Aquila] The name Aquila is a Latin word, and it is not likely that this was the man’s Jewish name, but as the custom was among the Jews, he had probably assumed a Roman name during his dwelling in Italy and in his intercourse with the Gentiles. See above on Acts 13:9. The name is identified, by the Jews, with that of Onkelos, who wrote a Targum on the Pentateuch, and some make that Onkelos to be the same with Aquila who translated the Old Testament into Greek, of which translation part is preserved to us in Origen’s Hexapla.
born in Pontus] Lit. a man of Pontus by race. The provinces of Asia Minor abounded with Jewish families of the Dispersion, as we may see from the whole history in the Acts. In Acts 2:9-10 many of these districts are mentioned as contributing to the number of worshippers who had come to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. Pontus came under Roman sway when its king Mithridates was conquered by Pompey, and this connexion may have led Aquila to leave his native country for Italy. Aquila and his wife are mentioned Romans 16:3 as though they were again in Rome, so that probably they had formed ties there which were only temporarily severed by the Claudian edict mentioned in this verse. (It is however questioned whether the salutations in Romans 16 form part of the Epistle as it was sent to the Romans.) They were with St Paul when he wrote the first Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:19), and were so far settled in Ephesus, where that Epistle was written, as to have a house which they could place at the service of the Christians there, as a place to worship in. And if (as is most probable) Timothy was in Ephesus when the second Epistle (2 Timothy 4:19) was addressed to him, they were in that city again at this later date (for Priscilla is only the diminutive form of Prisca as the name of the wife is there written). More than this is not known of their changes of abode.
Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome] The Jews were often objects of persecution in Rome, but this particular occasion is probably that mentioned by Suetonius, Claud. 25, where we read that by reason of Jewish tumults at the instigation of one Christus (or Chrestus) they were driven out of the city. Whether this was the name of some Jew then resident in Rome, or whether it is a reference to some disturbance that had arisen from the Jewish expectation of “the Christ” or Messiah, and the name Christus is mistakenly used by Suetonius as though it were that of some agitator actually present, we cannot tell. Or it may have been some movement of the Jews against the Christians because they taught that the “Christ” was already come. In that case the name “Christus” would come into great prominence, and might give rise to the statement of Suetonius that a person of that name had been the instigator of the disturbances.
And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.3. And because he was of the same craft] Among the Jews every Rabbi deemed it proper to practise some handicraft, and they have a proverb about R. Isaac, who was a smith, “Better is the sentence of the smith (R. Isaac) than that of the smith’s son (R. Jochanan),” thus marking their opinion that the pursuit of a craft was no injury to the teacher’s wisdom (T. B. Sanhedrin, 96a). Thus our Lord is spoken of (Mark 6:3) as “the carpenter.”
he abode with them, and wrought] Some ancient authorities read and they wrought. This change in the number seems awkward. The mention already made of the craft of Aquila and his wife conveys the information that they wrought: what the sentence seems to need is the addition which the singular gives that “he wrought.” In a passage from T. B. Sukkah, 51 b, part of which has already been quoted on Acts 6:9, we read in a description of the Jewish synagogue at Alexandria, “The people did not sit mixed together, but goldsmiths by themselves, and silversmiths by themselves, and ironworkers by themselves, and miners by themselves, and weavers by themselves, and when a poor man came there he recognised the members of his craft, and went there, and from thence was his support, and that of the members of his house.” This may explain how readily Paul found at Corinth some persons who were of his own craft.
by their occupation they were tentmakers] What they made was most probably tent-cloth. This was of goats’ hair, and the plaiting of it into strips and joining these together was a common employment in Cilicia, to such an extent that the district gave name to the material and the articles made of it, a soldier’s and sailor’s rough hair rug being named Cilicium. As the trade was intended in such cases as St Paul’s merely to be used as a resource under circumstances of need which were not likely to come about, we can understand that while complying with Jewish feeling in the matter, a trade would be chosen for the boy which would not consume a large part of his time in learning. Mishnah Qiddushin iv. 14 says “let a person teach his son a trade both clean and easy.” The most common handicraft of Tarsus offered just such a trade in the making of this rough goats’ hair cloth.
And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.4. and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks] There are no articles in the original and they are omitted in the Revised Version. No doubt, as in other Gentile cities, the religion of the Jews in Corinth gained the attention of many among the Gentiles, who as proselytes or inclining thereto would form part of the Sabbath audience in the synagogue. According to his rule St Paul addressed himself to the Jews first.
And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.5. And (But) when Silas and Timotheus were come (came down) from Macedonia] The particle at the beginning of the verse is better regarded as adversative. We have in this verse an account of a change in the character of the Apostle’s preaching after the arrival of Silas and Timothy, who had been left at Berœa (Acts 17:14). It may well be that he had encouragement by their presence in his work, and also that it was not so necessary for him to consume his whole time on his craft because the Philippians had sent a contribution for his support (Php 4:15; 2 Corinthians 11:9).
Paul was pressed in spirit] The best texts read, was constrained by the word (so R. V.) and the Vulg. “instabat verbo” is evidence in its favour. The sense seems to be, he was earnestly occupied in preaching the Word, and felt himself more urged on, and also more able, to preach, because of his freedom from the necessity of constant labour. It was apparently only on the Sabbath that he had reasoned with the people before. The usus loquendi favours the passive meaning. Meyer (3rd ed.) renders “he was apprehended, seized by the word” in the sense of internal pressure of spirit.
testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ] This sentence which is of the participial form in the original intimates the manner in which the greater earnestness of the Apostle was exhibited. He gave in all its fulness his solemn testimony, no doubt confirmed from Scripture and by the narrative of his own miraculous conversion, that this Jesus, whom he had formerly persecuted, was the Christ, the Messiah whom the Jews had long expected.
And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.6. opposed themselves] The word implies very strong opposition, as of a force drawn up in battle array. It was an organized opposition.
and blasphemed] The same word is used in 2 Peter 2:2, “The way of truth shall be evil spoken of.” And the same conduct, though the word is different, is described in the next chapter (Acts 19:9), “speaking evil of the Way before the multitude.”
he shook out his raiment] Figurative of entire renunciation of them. Nothing that pertained to them should cling to him; and in like manner he would cast them off from his thoughts (cp. Acts 13:51). For the action cp. Nehemiah 5:13.
Your blood be upon your own heads] He says “blood” in the sense of “destruction,” using figuratively the language which in Joshua 2:19 is used literally.
I will go unto the Gentiles] i.e. the Gentiles in Corinth. For in future preaching elsewhere (see Acts 19:8) he addressed the Jews and went to the synagogue, as had been his custom from the first.
And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man's house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue.7. a certain man’s house, named Justus] He used this house for the purposes of teaching and worship. We may suppose that for his own lodging, he still remained with Aquila and Priscilla. Some MSS. give the name Titus Justus to this man, and the double name is adopted in the Revised Version, but there is good authority for the received text.
one that worshipped God] He was a Proselyte. The word is used of religious proselytes (Acts 13:43) and of devout Greeks (Acts 17:4). His house was therefore an appropriate place in which both Jews and Gentiles might meet, and to which Gentiles would be more ready to come than to that of a Jew by birth.
whose house joined hard to the synagogue] It is likely that St Paul, though he came no more to the synagogue at Corinth, chose not to betake himself far away, because he would be ready to receive any of his brethren who might change their feelings and come to him. But we can see how, while his near neighbourhood gave opportunity for this, the meetings of those who came to the synagogue with those who were going to the house of Justus, would be likely to cause bitterness, especially when the number of St Paul’s adherents began to increase, and a ruler of the synagogue was counted among them.
And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.8. And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue] It is better to omit “chief” otherwise this part of the word is twice translated. (So R. V.) This Crispus is alluded to, 1 Corinthians 1:14, as one of the few whom St Paul himself baptized. His previous distinguished position among the Jews, and the conversion of his whole family, would make him noticeable among the Christian converts. There may have been more than one synagogue in Corinth. In Acts 18:17 we read of Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue. But it is quite possible that this man may have been appointed immediately after the conversion of Crispus, and may have been desirous to shew his zeal against the Christian teachers by laying an immediate information against Paul before the proconsul.
and many of the Corinthians … were baptized] St Paul mentions that he himself only baptized (in addition to Crispus) Gaius and the household of Stephanas. But Silas and Timothy were now by his side and would care for the admission of the new converts to baptism.
Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace:9. Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision] The rendering of the first word makes it seem as though the original were an adverb of time. Render, “And the Lord said, &c” We may judge from the language used to him that for some reason the heart of the Apostle was beginning to wax faint, and that he was in danger of bodily maltreatment. The communication was made in the same way as the call to come over into Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10). Only here the Lord appeared to his servant.
speak, and hold not thy peace] An exhortation to even more continuous preaching than before. Let nothing stop thy testimony.
For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.10. for I am with thee] The pronoun is expressed emphatically in the Greek, and no man shall set on thee to hurt [harm] thee. There will be assailants. Christ does not promise him freedom from attack. But the enemy shall not be able to do him violence. And this appearance of Christ would give the Apostle the confidence of the prophet of old (2 Kings 6:16), “They that be with us are more than they that be with them.”
for I have much people in this city] How important and extensive was the Christian community at Corinth we may gather from the Epistles which St Paul wrote afterwards to the Church there. And as the city was one of the great centres of commercial activity at this period, we can see how important it was (humanly speaking) for the Church to make good its footing there from the first. The Lord mercifully by this vision gave his servant assurance that his words should be largely blessed, and rising up thus comforted, he was ready for any task.
And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.11. And he continued [dwelt] there] In these words the historian seems to be expressing the content which pervaded the Apostle’s mind after the vision. Neither the A. V. nor the Revised rendering gives to the full the meaning of the Greek. The verb is generally rendered “to sit down,” and here seems to be applied purposely to the restful state of the Apostle’s mind after the comforting revelation. The same verb is used by St Luke (Luke 24:49), “Tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high,” where the admonition is of like character with the advice given here to St Paul. In no other place in the New Testament is the word similarly used.
a year and six months] And beside his teaching to the Corinthians he wrote at this time the two Epistles to the Thessalonians which are the first in order of date among the Apostolic letters, and probably the earliest part of the whole New Testament.
And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat,12–17. Paul is accused before Gallio, who declines to consider the charge against him. In consequence the populace fall at once on Sosthenes, a chief man among the Jews, but Gallio lets their assault pass unnoticed
12. And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia] Better, But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia (so R. V.). The narrative is about to enter on something which was adverse to the spirit of quiet rest mentioned in the previous verse, therefore “but” is the fitting conjunction. To give the governor of the province his proper title is of much importance, and here forms a mark of the fidelity of the narrative. Achaia was a Roman province. Such provinces belonged either to the Senate or to the Emperor. When they were senatorial the governor was styled Proconsul. Now Achaia had been a senatorial province under Augustus, but under Tiberius was an imperial province for a time, but after a.d. 44 under Claudius (Suet. Claud. xxv.), which is the reign in which these events in St Paul’s life occurred, it was once more made senatorial and so had a Proconsul at this period for its governor. This Gallio was the brother of the famous philosopher Seneca, who was tutor and for a time minister of the Emperor Nero. Originally Gallio was called Marcus Annæus Novatus, and took the name of Gallio from the orator Lucius Junius Gallio, by whom he was adopted. The character of Gallio as described by his Roman contemporaries is that of a most bright, popular, and affectionate man. He is spoken of as “Sweet Gallio,” and Seneca declares that “those who love him to the utmost, don’t love him enough.”
the Jews made insurrection [Better (with R. V.), rose up] with one accord against Paul] They probably thought to avail themselves of the inexperience of a newly arrived proconsul, and by appearing in a body to obtain the expulsion of the Apostle from their city.
and brought him to the judgment seat] To Gallio they would seem a company of Jews accusing one of their own race of some erroneous teaching. If he had only lately come from Rome, he would be likely to have heard there of the troubles about “Christus” (see above on Acts 18:2), and he would consider that he had come into the midst of a quarrel about the same matter.
Saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law.13. contrary to the law] i.e. the Jewish law. Their religion was one of those allowed throughout the Roman Empire, and their hope is to induce the proconsul to protect the Jewish law by Roman law. But the majesty of Roman power was far too august to be invoked for settling a quarrel between the members of a merely “tolerated” religion. He would not meddle in their matters.
And when Paul was now about to open his mouth, Gallio said unto the Jews, If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you:14. And (But) when Paul was now about to open his mouth] There is nothing in the Gk. which requires the word “now.” The Roman has too much contempt for the whole matter and all who are concerned in it to listen to any defence. For the law of the Jews, its breach or its observance, he has no care, and will not be used by either party.
Gallio said unto the Jews] He does not need to hear both sides of a question about which he will give no opinion.
If indeed it were a matter of wrong or of wicked lewdness (villany)] The old word “lewdness” has grown to have a different meaning from that which it had when the A. V. was made. The two things of which the magistrate would take account are (1) any evil doing (cp. Acts 24:20), an act of injustice, or (2) any unscrupulous conduct involving moral wrong. He would be, that is, a minister of law and equity, for that was his duty.
reason would that I should bear with you] He shews by his language how far he feels the Roman citizen above the tolerated Jews. But if their case called for its exercise they should have the benefit of toleration and he would inquire into matters that were the business of his office.
But if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters.15. But if they are questions about words and names] The oldest authorities give the plural “questions,” and there would no doubt have been many points brought forward from St Paul’s teaching to which the Jews would object. And whether Jesus was the Christ or not would seem to the Roman a matter entirely of definition, and on which the law had no bearing. If he had heard the name of “Christus” at Rome, it would make Gallio the more ready to imitate his royal master, and get rid of the disputants as fast and as far as possible.
and of your law] Better, and of your own law. The words are literally “the law among (or according to) you.” The accusers had without doubt been striving to make out that in teaching a different manner of worship (Acts 18:13) Paul was bringing forward a religion not enjoying toleration by the Roman government. But Gallio sees through their intention, and counting them all for Jews, he will not be drawn into their questions.
look ye to it] Better, look to it yourselves (as R. V.). The pronoun is very emphatic in the Greek.
for I will be no judge of such matters] The oldest authorities omit “for,” and the Revised Version makes it plain that “will” is not here an auxiliary verb, as it often is in English. “I am not minded to be a judge of these matters.” Gallio knows his own business and will only mind that. It is not a case where his jurisdiction can interfere, and so he leaves the whole untouched. There is no question here about his own regard and disregard of enquiries about religion. He sits to administer Roman law, and this dispute among the Jews at Corinth lies outside his cognizance altogether.
And he drave them from the judgment seat.16. And he drave them from the judgment seat] The description given by St Luke makes it probable that the seat of Gallio was in some open public place, where all might come and bring their plaints. The proconsul would be attended by his lictors and other officials, and those he now commands to clear the place of these troublesome cavillers about words and names. The new magistrate found perhaps enough to do in matters which came within his jurisdiction in the busy mercantile life of Corinth.
Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things.17. Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue] The conjunction is too strongly rendered in the A.V. The oldest MSS. omit “the Greeks” which is very like a marginal gloss that has been introduced into the text by some scribe. Here as before (Acts 18:8) omit “chief.” Render (with R. V.), And they all laid hold on Sosthenes the ruler of the synagogue. The verb is used (Acts 21:30) of the violent action of the mob at Jerusalem, and just afterwards (Acts 21:33) of the chief captain’s conduct when he rescued Paul. Neither would be very gentle measures. And we may understand something of the same kind here. The surrounding crowd, of whom no doubt most would be Greeks, catching the tone of the magistrate, prepared to follow up his decision by a lesson of their own, of a rather rough kind. Sosthenes had probably been the spokesman of the Jews, and Paul would not improbably have some sympathizers among the Gentiles. And “Jew-baiting” was not unknown in those days. So with impunity the crowd could wreak their own vengeance on these interrupters of the proper business of the court, and beat Sosthenes before he was out of the magistrate’s presence. The name Sosthenes was a very common one, and we need not identify this man with the Sosthenes mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:1.
And Gallio cared for none of those things] Neither for the questions raised nor for those who raised them. How little Jewish life was regarded by the Romans is shewn in many places in their literature (see Farrar’s St Paul, vol. 1. Exc. xiv.). Tiberius banished four thousand of them to Sardinia, saying that if the unhealthy climate killed them off “it would be a cheap loss” (Tac. Ann. ii. 85). Coming from Rome where such feeling was universal, the lives and limbs of a few Jews would appear of small importance, and like the Emperor just named he may have thought it mattered little what became of them.
And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow.18–23. Paul leaves Corinth to go into Syria, halting a short time at Cenchrea and somewhat longer at Ephesus. He lands at Cesarea, goes up to Jerusalem and from thence to Antioch, and after a time departs on his third missionary journey
18. And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while] Lit. many days. This appears to be after the appearance before Gallio. We are told (Acts 18:11) that he settled quietly for a year and six months. Then came an opportunity of attacking him on Gallio’s arrival. Of this the Jews tried to avail themselves, and when their attempt was at an end, the Apostle had another time of peace among his converts. So that the whole stay in Corinth extended over more than a year and a half.
sailed thence into (better, for) Syria] We have no motive given why the Apostle at this time sailed back. Some have suggested that he was carrying a contribution to the brethren in Jerusalem. It is clear that when the return was resolved on, he wished to reach Jerusalem as soon as possible, for he declined to tarry in Ephesus even though his preaching was more readily received there than by the Jews in many other places. It may have been the wish to fulfil his vow, which could only be brought to its conclusion by a visit to the temple in Jerusalem.
having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow] We can observe all through the narrative of the Acts that St Paul, although the Apostle of the Gentiles, did not cease to regard the festivals and ceremonies of the Jews in things which did not militate against the Christian liberty. For some reason, either during sickness or in the midst of his conflict at Corinth, he had taken a vow upon himself of the nature of the Nazarite vows (Numbers 6:1-21). This could only be brought to its fitting close by a journey to Jerusalem to offer up the hair, which it was a part of the vow, to leave uncut. At Jerusalem when the ceremony was completed the head was shaven (see Acts 21:24), but it seems to have been allowed to persons at a distance to cut the hair short and to bring that with them to the temple and offer it up when the rest was shaven. This appears to be what St Paul did at this time, at Cenchreæ, before starting on the voyage to Syria. The Greek word for “having shorn” stands in the original next to Aquila, and some have contended from this that it was he who had the vow, and cut his hair. They have pointed out also that the order of the names “Priscilla and Aquila” seems to have been adopted purposely to make this connexion of words possible. But the name of the wife stands before that of her husband in Romans 16:3; see also 2 Timothy 4:19; and may have been so placed because by her zeal she made herself a very conspicuous member of the Church wherever she lived. But it seems very unlikely that all this detail of a vow and its observance would be so prominently mentioned in connexion with Aquila, who played but a small part in St Luke’s history; while it is a most significant feature in the conduct of St Paul that he so oft conformed to Jewish observances.
And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews.19. And he [they] came to Ephesus] The oldest authorities have the plural number here. Ephesus was the famous city, capital of Ionia, and afterwards the scene of a large period of St John’s labours. It stood not far from the sea on some hilly ground by a small river which flows into the sea in the district lying between the greater rivers, the Hermus and the Meander. In St Paul’s day it was by far the busiest and most populous city in Proconsular Asia. For a more complete account of its inhabitants and the special worship of Artemis (Diana) for which it was celebrated, a fitting place will be found in the notes on chap. 19.
and left them there] Aquila and Priscilla probably had business connexions with the large city of Ephesus, which caused them to end their journey here. These people though working at their trade appear to have been above the position which would be implied by Dr Farrar’s expression (St Paul i. 573) “his lodging in the squalid shop of Aquila and Priscilla.” They travelled about and lived now at Rome, now at Ephesus, and now in Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:19; Romans 16:3; 2 Timothy 4:19), and on their condition when in Ephesus, see above on Acts 18:2.
entered into the synagogue] He could not give up his own people, though he was constantly exposed to hard usage by them; so he seeks them out again here as soon as he arrives. In Ephesus however his message seems to have been received with less hostility, for those who heard him begged him to stay a longer time. The cosmopolitan character of the Ephesian population may have had something to do with this.
When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not;20. And when they desired (asked) him to tarry a longer time with them] The oldest texts omit the last two words. The verb is one most frequently rendered “to ask.” We need not suppose that more impression had been produced on this occasion than made the Jews willing to give him a patient hearing.
But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus.21. but bade them farewell] This is the same verb as in Acts 18:18, and should be rendered in the same way. “But took his leave of them.” The oldest authorities and the best modern editors, followed by the Revised Version, omit a large portion of the verse, reading thus: “but taking his leave of them, and saying, I will return again unto you, if God will, he set sail from Ephesus.” The words thus omitted are deemed to have been an insertion suggested by Acts 20:16. It is not only on the authority of a small number of uncials that the words are rejected; their omission is supported by several cursives, as well as by the Vulgate and some other versions.
There has been much discussion on the question whether it was the feast of the Passover or the Pentecost which the Apostle desired to keep in Jerusalem. If we accept the omission, as the authorities seem fully to warrant, the question is not raised.
I will return again unto you] Having the opportunity, he soon redeemed his promise, see Acts 19:1.
And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and saluted the church, he went down to Antioch.22. Cesarea] (See Acts 8:40.) This was the home of Philip the Evangelist, and we may suppose that St Paul would make the success of his distant mission known to his fellow-labourer. He made the house of Philip his home in Cæsarea on a later occasion (Acts 21:8).
gone up] i.e. from the coast town to the city of Jerusalem.
and saluted the church] This is a very brief notice of a visit to the centre of all church life and action at this time. And we cannot but be surprised that there is no mention (as in Acts 14:27) of a gathering of the church, and of the report of what the great missionary had been enabled to effect. Dr Farrar (St Paul, ii. 5) suggests that St Paul met with a cold and ungracious reception, and that the position which he assumed towards the Law in his preaching to Gentile converts, raised him up adversaries among the Christians in Jerusalem, who were naturally zealous for the Law. It is certainly strange that even the name of the city is not mentioned, nor are we told a word about the fulfilment of the vow. For some reason or other, the Apostle hastened, as soon as his salutations were ended, to the more congenial society of the Christians at Antioch who had rejoiced over his success on a former visit.
And after he had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.23. And after he had spent some time there] Having felt for themselves the troubles of the Judaizers, the people at Antioch would sympathize with the Apostle, if he were experiencing like opposition now to his own work.
he departed] Starting from Antioch as on both his former missions.
and went over all the country (region) of Galatia and Phrygia in order] Taking no doubt the same direction as before, and so visiting Lystra and Derbe, before he came to the more northern portions of Asia Minor.
strengthening all the disciples] The verb is elsewhere always rendered “confirming” both in the A. V. and in the Revised Version (cp. Acts 14:22; Acts 15:32; Acts 15:41). Here in the Rev. Ver. it is changed to “stablishing” which does perhaps contain the idea of “making firm” a little more fully than “strengthen” does. “Confirming” was to be avoided here because of the use of that word now as signifying the Church’s rite of “Confirmation.”
And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.24–28. Visit of Apollos to Ephesus, and his teaching there. He is more fully instructed by Aquila and Priscilla, and afterwards passing over into Achaia, preaches Christ there with great power
24. And [Now] a certain Jew named Apollos] As this interposed narrative about Apollos is an unconnected digression, preparatory to what will be mentioned in the following chapter, it is better to render the conjunction by a less distinctly conjunctive word. So “Now” is better than “And.”
The name Apollos is an abbreviation of Apollonius, which is read in one MS. (D). His influence as a Christian teacher made itself most felt in Corinth. (Cp. 1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 4:6.)
born at Alexandria (lit. an Alexandrian by birth)] On Alexandria as a place abounding with Jews cp. Acts 6:9. It was in Alexandria and by Jews that the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament was made.
an eloquent man] The word in the original expresses not only ability as an orator, but also the possession of stores of learning. Hence the Rev. Ver. gives “learned.” Either rendering only gives half the idea. He was learned and could use his learning with effect.
came to Ephesus, and he was mighty in the Scriptures] This is the arrangement and construction of the original. The study of the Old Testament flourished greatly in Alexandria, and Apollos had great power in the exposition and application of these Scriptures. The literary activity and philosophic pursuits of the Greek population of Alexandria were not without their effect on the more conservative Jews, and we find from many sources that the Jewish writings were studied with all the literary exactness which marked the Greek scholarship of the time, and the Jews, conscious of the antiquity of their own records and yet impressed with the philosophic character of their cultured fellow-citizens, bent themselves greatly to find analogies between the Mosaic writings and the teachings of the schools. In study like this Apollos had no doubt been fully trained.
This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.25. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord] Nothing is gained by pressing the tense of the original into the “had been instructed” of the Revised Version. If he had been instructed he consequently was instructed. The word for instructed is that from which comes the English “catechize.” Hence it implies a course of teaching distinct from his own study of the Scriptures. We know from Josephus (Antiq. xviii. 5. 2) that the teaching and baptism of John produced great effect among the Jews. We need not therefore wonder at finding among Jews at Jerusalem and Ephesus men who had accepted the Baptist’s teaching about Jesus. But in considering such cases we must remember where such instruction as they had received would stop short. They would know that John baptized in preparation for the coming of the kingdom, they would have heard that he pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God, being certified thereof when He came to be baptized. But when John was dead and the life of Jesus was brought to a close on Calvary, except the few of John’s disciples who had joined the followers of our Lord, none would know of the way in which the foundations of the heavenly kingdom were laid, none would understand the institution of the Sacraments, nor the sending down of the Holy Ghost, nor the teaching of repentance, and of the gift of salvation to the faithful through grace. Of these things John had known nothing, and we must not forget in our attempt to estimate his work and its effects, that there came to himself a day when he sent to Christ to ask “Art thou He that should come?” (Matthew 11:3.)
and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught carefully the things concerning Jesus] These variations from the A.V. are warranted by the best texts of the original. As “the spirit” intended is Apollos’ own it is better to omit the article. The adverb rendered “carefully” indicates the accuracy with which he proclaimed all that he had been taught. “The things of the Lord” seems to have been the suggestion of some one who did not understand the plain statement of the text. In the previous expression “the way of the Lord” we have only the Old Test. words (Isaiah 40:3) quoted by the Evangelists concerning John’s preaching. (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3.) There may have been some timidity felt about the further statement that Apollos taught the things “concerning Jesus,” and so the reading of the early part of the verse was brought in here also. But after what has been said above we can see how this Alexandrian Jew might publish with the utmost accuracy all that John had proclaimed about the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven, and enforce it from his own studies of the Old Testament Scriptures, he might declare how John had pointed to Jesus, and might even relate much of the works and words of Christ, as an evidence that God was sending greater prophets than they had known for long, and that therefore Christ’s life was a testimony that redemption was near. All this he might know and preach most carefully, and yet lack all that further knowledge which Aquila and Priscilla imparted.
knowing only the baptism of John] In this sentence we have the solution of any difficulty which there may seem to be in the verse. He knew nothing of that other baptism, which is the entrance into Christ’s kingdom, and therefore he could merely be looking forward for the fulfilment of the prophecies, and the power of his teaching would consist in the zealous way which he published that the voice of God in His older Revelation proclaimed Messiah’s advent very near.
And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.26. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue] For the Jews were not all ready to listen to announcements of the approach of the Messiah. The speaker must be prepared with arguments as well as courage who dwelt on this theme, about which the Jews had been deluded by many impostors.
But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him] This is the commencement of a new sentence in the original, and the oldest texts put the name of the wife before that of her husband as in Acts 18:18. By joining her in this marked way with Aquila in the communications with Apollos, the historian indicates that she was a woman of great power and zeal among the Christians. It has been suggested that she was perhaps a born Jewess and her husband not so, which might account for the prominence given in several places to her name. It may be noted here, as so often, that Aquila and his wife, like the other Judæo-Christians, still attended the worship of the synagogue.
they took him unto them] He would be much more in sympathy with them than with the Jewish congregation. He was prepared to accept the Messiah, but did not yet understand that Jesus was He.
and expounded unto him the way of God more carefully] The adverb here is the same as in the previous verse, and the use of it seems to shew that the studies of Aquila and his wife in the Scriptures had been of the same earnest kind as those of Apollos. By the “way of God” we must understand God’s further working out of the Old Testament prediction in the closing events of the life of Jesus, and in the gift of the Holy Ghost. That Joel’s prophecy, quoted by St Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16), had been thus fulfilled, was new learning for the eloquent Alexandrian. As also the newly appointed means of grace in baptism and the breaking of bread, with the promise of salvation to faith in Christ. These also may be included as part of the “way of God,” being means whereby men are brought nearer to Him.
And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace:27. And when he was minded to pass over into Achaia] The original expresses more than an inclination on his part; he wished to go. We find from Acts 19:1 that the centre of his labours there was Corinth. Being acquainted with the philosophy and learning of Greece he was well fitted to be a preacher to the Greeks as well as to the Jews, and he may have felt that Corinth was the place where he could do most good. We are not told of any Apostolic commission to Apollos, but we know from 1 Corinthians 1:12, &c. that he came to be regarded by some Corinthians as the equal of St Paul, and that there arose some strong party feeling in that Church, which is rebuked in St Paul’s letter to them. We cannot suppose that this was brought about by Apollos, for St Paul speaks of him as watering what he himself had planted, and it may be that the knowledge of the existence of such a spirit accounts for the unwillingness of Apollos to come back to Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:12) which we read of somewhat later.
the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him] Here the A. V. makes the disciples in Achaia the object of the exhortation. The construction in the original is not quite clear, but the order of the words seems in favour of the Revised rendering, “the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples, &c.” though the pronoun “him” is not expressed in the Greek. Here we find the first instance of letters of commendation sent from one Church to another. “The brethren” at Ephesus must have been a small number, but Aquila and Priscilla would be well known to the Christians in Corinth.
who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace] So far as the Greek is concerned the last two words may be connected either with “helped” or “believed.” But as the history is occupied with the work of Apollos, it seems more natural to explain the “grace” spoken of, as the gift which was already in Apollos, and which the more full instruction that he had just received had tended to increase. He had formerly been but partially enlightened. Now that he knows the truth in Christ, his former ability becomes more helpful still. His work seems rightly estimated by St Paul, “he watered” what the Apostle had “planted” (1 Corinthians 3:6).
For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.28. for he mightily convinced the Jews] The verb expresses more than is given thus. He brought the objections of the Jews to the test of Scripture and confuted them. The disciples, who had already believed, appear to have been suffering from Jewish gainsayers. It was by his power in the Scriptures that Apollos was helpful against these adversaries of the faith. The Revised Version has changed “mightily” into “powerfully” to little profit. Shakespeare says “you have mightily persuaded” (As you Like it, i. 2. 218).
and that publickly] By his discourses in the synagogue. This was an important feature in the help that Apollos gave. He was a learned Jew, able to set forth to whole Jewish congregations how their Scriptures were receiving their fulfilment. Thus they who already believed would be strengthened.
shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ] See above, on Acts 18:5. The Jews had complained before Gallio that St Paul’s teaching was a religion “contrary to the law.” Those who heard Apollos learnt that in Jesus they were accepting the “fulfiller of the law.”