|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:15-24 St. Paul was wonderfully brought to the knowledge and faith of Christ. All who are savingly converted, are called by the grace of God; their conversion is wrought by his power and grace working in them. It will but little avail us to have Christ revealed to us, if he is not also revealed in us. He instantly prepared to obey, without hesitating as to his worldly interest, credit, ease, or life itself. And what matter of thanksgiving and joy is it to the churches of Christ, when they hear of such instances to the praise of the glory of his grace, whether they have ever seen them or not! They glorify God for his power and mercy in saving such persons, and for all the service to his people and cause that is done, and may be further expected from them.
Verses 22-24. - It is somewhat difficult to determine, and when determined to make evident in translation, the precise flexure in the intonation (so to speak) of these verses. So far as the present writer can see, it is this: the δὲ in ver. 22 is slightly adversative to the foregoing sentence; as if it were, "During that time the people of Syria and Cilicia saw a great deal of me, but the Churches of Judaea did not see me at all." The δὲ in ver. 23 introduces a contrast to the foregoing "unknown by face;" as if it were, "They knew me not by face, but only by report." The rendering to be now given will endeavour to represent this view of the whole passage. Verse 22. - And was unknown by face (ἤμην δὲ ἀγνοούμενος τῷ προσώπῳ); but I was all the while unknown by face. The dative τῷ προσώπῳ, "by face," or "in person," marks (see Winer,' Gram. N. T.,' § 31, 6, a) the sphere to which a wider term is restricted, as ταῖς φρεσίν (1 Corinthians 14:20). Its addition prepares the reader for the subsequent intimation that, though unknown by personal presentment, he was not unknown by repute (comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:17, Προσώπῳ οὐ καρδιᾳ). The widened form of the verb, ηπμην ἀγνοούμενος, instead of ἠγνοούμην, intimates the long-continued period, represented by the words "all the while" in our rendering, for which the statement held good; which observation applies also to the ἀκούοντες ῆσαν of ver. 23. The word "still," introduced in the Revised Version, imports, as I humbly venture to think, on idea not actually expressed in the Greek. The apostle states no more than that the Churches of Judaea had at that time no opportunity of coming to know him personally. There is no ἔτι, They had, that is (for this is what seems intended), no opportunity of knowing him in his new character as a disciple of Christ. Whether or not they had known him in the terrible aspect of an unrelenting persecutor, is a matter which for the present lies out of the field of view. The period to which the apostle means this remark of his to apply may be assumed to be the whole time between his conversion and the close of this stay of his in "Syria and Cilicia." This, as we learn from the Acts, terminated with Barnabas's fetching him to join him in his work at Antioch. After this he did become known to the disciples of Judaea. Unto the Churches of Judaea which were in Christ (ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῆς Ἰουδαίας ταῖς ἐν Ξριστῷ). This honorific form of designation, "which were in Christ," breathes a feeling on the part of the apostle of reverential respect for those Churches, as already organized communities vitally united to Christ, while he was as yet only beginning his Christian life (comp. Romans 16:7, "Who were also in Christ before me"). This ceremonious respectfulness is the more in place, inasmuch as the apostle had reason to know that the doctrinal position which he fell himself set to defend, in reference to obedience to the Mosaic Law, was generally distasteful to Jewish believers. Grateful is it, however, to his own feelings to recollect, and now thus publicly to recognize, the kindness and devout thankfulness which in those early days of his Christian career they had evinced with reference to him (see note on ver. 24). At the same time, his entire independence of the whole Jewish community when first beginning to preach is plainly indicated. It was from no Judaean Church any more than from Jerusalem and its apostles and elders that he derived the gospel which he had then and ever since been proclaiming. If we take the bearing of the clause, "which were in Christ," as above proposed, we have no need of (Ecumenius's remark, endorsed by various critics, including Alford and even Bishop Lightfoot, that it was added to distinguish the ἐκκλήσιαι of Christians from synagogues of non-Christian Jews. Indeed, the remark is itself open to grave exception. It is true that ἐκκλησία in the singular number is used of the whole Israelite community antecedently to the Christian dispensation; but it is never found either in the New Testament or in the Septuagint to denote, as συναγωγὴ does, an organized collection of Israelites as such, dwelling in a particular neighbourhood, in the way that it is applied to an organized collection of Christians in a neighbourhood; neither is the noun ever applied to Israelites as such in the plural number. The term ἐκκλήσιαι would, of course, be taken to mean Christian Churches and no other.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And was unknown by face,.... Or "in person". This is said to prevent what might be objected, that though the apostle had not received the Gospel he preached from any of the apostles at Jerusalem; yet he might have had it from the churches that were in the land of Judea, and from some of the principal men in them; but this was so far from being truth, that he was not so much as known unto the churches of Judea which were in Christ; for there was not only a famous church of believers in Christ at Jerusalem, the metropolis of the land, but there were several congregated churches in the several parts of that country: by Judea we are to understand that part of the land of Israel so called, which was distinct not only from Samaria; but from Galilee and Perea, or the country beyond Jordan; for according to the Jews (d), the land of Israel was divided into three parts, Judea, Perea, and Galilee. Judea again was divided into three parts, the hill country, the plain, and the valley; and the plain of Lydda is as the plain of the south, and its mountainous part as the king's mountain; from Bethhoron to the sea is one province: and elsewhere (e) it is said, that the hill country of Judea is the king's mountain, the plain of it is the plain of the south, and the valley is from Engedi to Jericho--from Bethhoron to Emmaus is mountainous, from Emmaus to Lydda is a plain, and from Lydda to the sea a valley; from which may be collected where this country lay, and where were these churches here spoken of; the foundation of which might be laid in the conversion of some in those parts, through the ministry of the disciples of Christ, who were appointed witnesses of him not only in Jerusalem, but in all Judea and Samaria, Acts 1:8 and about the time of the Apostle Paul's conversion, and his being at Jerusalem, there were churches gathered in Judea, as distinct from Galilee and Samaria, Acts 9:31 particularly at Caesarea, Lydda, Saron, and Joppa. It is very likely that all the apostles, when they first set out to preach the Gospel after the ascension of Christ and the effusion of the Spirit, began in Judea; though some might make a very short stay, and others a longer. The Apostle and Evangelist Matthew is generally thought to have exercised his ministry chiefly in Judea, and to have continued there long; here he wrote his Gospel for the sake of the Jews that believed (f); and that, as a very ancient writer says (g), when Peter and Paul preached at Rome, and founded the church there. Judas Thaddaeus is also said (h) to go through Judea, Galilee, Samaria, Arabia, Syria, and Mesopotamia; and certain it is, that Philip, after he had baptized the eunuch, preached in all the cities from Azotus to Caesarea, where he seems to have stayed awhile and preached, Acts 8:40 and where afterwards was a Gospel church state, of which See Gill on Acts 10:48 and at Lydda and Saron, which were both in Judea, there were saints who were visited by the Apostle Peter, and others converted by him, about the time that our apostle here refers to; of the church at Lydda; See Gill on Acts 9:32 at Joppa also, which was in the tribe of Dan, there were disciples at the same time, and very likely a church there; See Gill on Acts 9:38 and it may be observed that the Apostle Peter was the minister of the circumcision, he had the Gospel of the circumcision committed to him, and he continued with and preached much to the circumcised Jews; and so in all likelihood was the instrument of planting the churches in Judea here spoken of. These are said to be
in Christ, as the church at Thessalonica, and that at Corinth are elsewhere said to be; because they professed to believe in Christ, were called by his name, and called upon his name; and though every individual member of them might not be in Christ, really united to him, and have communion with him; yet since they were all under a profession of him, they are considered as in him. The Arabic version reads it, "the churches of Judea which believe in Christ"; which though not a literal translation, gives the true sense of the passage, and distinguishes those churches from the synagogues or assemblies of the Jews which did not believe in Christ.
(d) Misn. Sheviith, c. 9. sect. 2.((e) T. Hieros. Sheviith, fol. 38. 4. (f) Hieron. Catalog. Script. Ecclesiast. sect. 4. fol. 90. A. (g) Irenaeus adv. Haeres. l. 3. c. 1.((h) Hist. Eccles. Magdeburg. cent. 1. l. 2. c. 10. p. 449.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
22. So far was I from being a disciple of the apostles, that I was even unknown in the churches of Judea (excepting Jerusalem, Ac 9:26-29), which were the chief scene of their labors.
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