Acts 11:19
Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.
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(19) Now they which were scattered abroad.—A new and important section begins with these words. We are carried back to the date of the persecution of which Stephen was the chief victim.

The persecution that arose about Stephen.—The MSS. vary in their reading, some giving the case which would be rendered by “the persecution in the time of Stephen;” some, that which answers to the persecution upon or against or after Stephen. The death of the martyr was followed, as Acts 8:1-4 shows, by a general outburst of fanaticism against the disciples, and this led to a comparatively general flight. It was probable, in the nature of the case, that the Hellenistic or Greek-speaking Jews who had been associated with Stephen would be the chief sufferers. Philip we have traced in Samaria and Cæsarea; others went to Phœnice, i.e., to the cities of Tyre and Sidon and Ptolemais, and were probably the founders of the churches which we find there in Acts 21:4-7; Acts 27:3. In Cyprus (see Note on Acts 13:4, for an account of the island) they prepared the way for the work of Barnabas and Paul.

And Antioch.—We have here the first direct point of contact between the Church of Christ and the great Syrian capital which was for so many years one of its chief centres. We may, perhaps, think of the proselyte of Antioch (Acts 6:5) who had been one of Stephen’s colleagues as one of those who brought the new faith to his native city. It was, as the sequel shows, a moment of immense importance. Situated on the Orontes, about fifteen miles from the port of Seleucia, the city, founded by Seleucus Nicator, and named after his father Antiochus, had grown in wealth and magnificence till it was one of the “eyes” of Asia. Its men of letters and rhetoricians (among them the poet Archias, in whose behalf Cicero made one of his most memorable orations) had carried its fame to Rome itself, and the Roman Satirist complained that the Syrian Orontes had polluted his native Tiber with the tainted stream of luxury and vice (Juvenal, Sat. iii. 62-64). It had a large colony of Jews, and Herod the Great had courted the favour of its inhabitants by building a marble colonnade which ran the whole length of the city. It became the head-quarters of the Prefect or President of Syria, and the new faith was thus brought into more direct contact with the higher forms of Roman life than it had been at Jerusalem or Cæsarea. There also it came into more direct conflict with heathenism in its most tempting and most debasing forms. The groves of Daphne, in the outskirts of the city, were famous for a worship which in its main features resembled that of Aphrodite at Corinth. An annual festival was held, known as the Maiuma, at which the harlot-priestesses, stripped of clothing, disported themselves in the waters of a lake. The city was stained with the vices of a reckless and shameless sensuality. It was as one of the strongholds of Satan; and we have to trace, as it were, the stages of the victory which transformed it into the mother-church of the Gentiles.

Preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.—Better, as answering to the singular number in the Greek, to no one. This was, of course, to be expected in the work of those who had left Jerusalem before the conversion of Cornelius had ruled the case otherwise. The fact is stated, apparently, in contrast both with the narrative that precedes and the statement that immediately follows.

Acts 11:19-21. Now they which were scattered abroad — Luke here resumes the thread of his narration in the very words wherewith he broke it off, chap. Acts 8:4; travelled as far as Phenice — To the north; Cyprus — To the west; and Antioch — To the east; preaching the word to none but the Jews only — Not being at all apprehensive that the Gentiles were to share the blessings of it. And some of them — Who bore a part in this work; were men of Cyprus — The island so called; and of the province of Cyrene in Africa; which when they were come to Antioch — Then the capital of Syria, and, next to Rome and Alexandria, the most considerable city of the empire; spake unto the Grecians — Here, instead of Ελληνιστας, Hellenists, the Alexandrian manuscript, which is favoured by the Syriac, and some other ancient versions, reads Ελληνας, Greeks; which reading common sense would require us to adopt, even if it were not supported by the authority of any manuscript at all; for as the Hellenists were Jews, there would, in the common reading, be no opposition between the conduct of these preachers and those mentioned in the preceding verse. “Here, undoubtedly, we have the first account of the preaching of the gospel to the idolatrous Gentiles: for it is certain there is nothing in the word rendered Greeks, to limit it to those that were worshippers of the true God, such as all those were to whom it had hitherto been preached; nor is there the least hint in the New Testament of the two different periods that some speak of, in the first of which they suppose it was preached only to those called proselytes of the gate, and in the second to those who were before idolaters. It is well known, that as the Greeks were the most celebrated of the Gentile nations near Judea, the Jews called all the Gentiles by that general name.” — Doddridge. And the hand of the Lord — That is, the power of his Spirit; was with them — Crowning their pious labours with success; and a great number — Of the Gentiles, who were before idolaters, were so effectually enlightened and wrought upon by their discourses and miracles, that they believed in the one living and true God, and in Jesus Christ whom he had sent; and turned unto the Lord — Dedicated themselves to the service of God through him, with an humble dependance on his merits and Spirit.

11:19-24 The first preachers of the gospel at Antioch, were dispersed from Jerusalem by persecution; thus what was meant to hurt the church, was made to work for its good. The wrath of man is made to praise God. What should the ministers of Christ preach, but Christ? Christ, and him crucified? Christ, and him glorified? And their preaching was accompanied with the Divine power. The hand of the Lord was with them, to bring that home to the hearts and consciences of men, which they could but speak to the outward ear. They believed; they were convinced of the truth of the gospel. They turned from a careless, carnal way of living, to live a holy, heavenly, spiritual life. They turned from worshipping God in show and ceremony, to worship him in the Spirit and in truth. They turned to the Lord Jesus, and he became all in all with them. This was the work of conversion wrought upon them, and it must be wrought upon every one of us. It was the fruit of their faith; all who sincerely believe, will turn to the Lord, When the Lord Jesus is preached in simplicity, and according to the Scriptures, he will give success; and when sinners are thus brought to the Lord, really good men, who are full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, will admire and rejoice in the grace of God bestowed on them. Barnabas was full of faith; full of the grace of faith, and full of the fruits of the faith that works by love.Now they ... - This verse introduces a new train of historical remark; and from this point the course of the history of the Acts of the Apostles takes a new direction. Thus far, the history had recorded chiefly the preaching of the gospel to the Jews. From this point the history records the efforts made to convert the Gentiles. It begins with the labors put forth in the important city of Antioch (Acts 11:19-20); and as, during the work of grace that occurred in that city, the labors of the apostle Paul were especially sought (Acts 11:25-26), the sacred writer thenceforth confines the history mainly to his travels and labors.

Which were scattered abroad - See Acts 8:1.

As far as Phenice - Phoenice, or Phoenicia, was a province of Syria, which in its largest sense comprehended a narrow strip of country lying on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, and extending from Antioch to the borders of Egypt. But Phenice Proper extended only from the cities of Laodicea to Tyre, and included only the territories of Tyre and Sidon. This country was called sometimes simply "Canaan." See the notes on Matthew 15:22.

And Cyprus - An island off the coast of Asia Minor, in the Mediterranean Sea. See the notes on Acts 4:36.

And Antioch - There were two cities of this name, one situated in Pisidia in Asia Minor (see Acts 13:14); the other, referred to here, was situated on the Orontes River, and was long, the capital of Syria. It was built by Seleucus Nicanor, and was called Antioch in honor of his father Antiochus. It was founded in 301 b.c. It is not mentioned in the Old Testament, but is several times mentioned in the Apocrypha and in the New Testament. It was long the most powerful city of the East, and was inferior only to Seleucia and Alexandria. It was famous for the fact that the right of citizenship was conferred by Seleucus on the Jews as well as the Greeks and Macedonians, so that here they had the privilege of worship in their own way without molestation. It is probable that the Christians would be regarded merely as a sect of Jews, and would be here suffered to celebrate their worship without interruption.

On this account it may have been that the early Christians regarded this city as of such particular importance, because here they could find a refuge from persecution, and be permitted to worship God without molestation. This city was honored as a Roman colony, a metropolis, and an asylum. It was large; was almost square; had many gaines; was adorned with fine fountains; and was a city of great opulence. It was, however, subject to earthquakes, and was several times nearly destroyed. In the year 588 it experienced an earthquake in which 60,000 persons were destroyed. It was conquered by the Saracens in 638 a.d., and, after some changes and revolutions, was taken during the Crusades, after a long and bloody siege, by Godfrey of Bouillon, June 3, 1098 ad. In 1268 it was taken by the Sultan of Egypt, who demolished it, and placed it under the dominion of the Turk. Antioch is now called Antakia, and contains about 10,000 inhabitants (Robinson's Calmet). "There was everything in the situation and circumstances of the city," say Conybeare and Howson ("Life and Epistles of Paul," vol. 1, p. 121), "to make it a place of concourse for all classes and kinds of people. By its harbor of Seleucia it was in communication with all the trade of the Mediterranean; and, through the open country behind the Lebanon, it was conveniently approached by the caravans from Mesopotamia and Arabia. It united the inland advantages of Aleppo with the maritime opportunities of Smyrna. It was almost an Oriental Rome, in which all the forms of the civilized life of the empire found some representative. Through the first two centuries of the Christian era it was what Constantinople became afterward, 'the Gate of the East.' "If any city in the first century was worthy to be called the Pagan Queen and Metropolis of the East, that city was Antioch. She was represented, in a famous allegorical statue, as a female figure, seated on a rock and crowned, with the river Orontes at her feet" (Conybeare and Howson, vol. 1, p. 125).

Preaching the word - The Word of God, the Gospel.

To none but unto the Jews only - They had the common prejudices of the Jews, that the offers of salvation were to be made only to Jews.

Ac 11:19-24. The Gospel Being Preached to Gentiles at Antioch Also Barnabas Is Sent Thither from Jerusalem, Who Hails Their Accession and Labors among Them.

19. they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen—and who "went everywhere preaching the word" (Ac 8:4).

travelled as far as Phenice—that part of the Mediterranean coast which, commencing a little north of Cæsarea, stretches northwards for upwards of one hundred miles, halfway to Antioch.

and Cyprus—(See on [1992]Ac 4:36). An active commercial intercourse subsisted between Phenice and Cyprus.

and Antioch—near the head of the northeast coast of the Mediterranean, on the river Orontes, and containing a large colony of Jews, to whose religion there were there numerous proselytes. "It was almost an Oriental Rome, in which all the forms of the civilized life of the empire found some representative; and through the two first centuries of the Christian era it was what Constantinople became afterwards, 'the Gate of the East'" [Howson].

So true hath it been from the beginning of the gospel, that sanguis martyrum est semen eccesiae. St. Stephen’s death, and the persecution upon it, was a great means of disseminating the gospel. Thus all things work for good.

Phenice; the country about Tyre.

Cyprus; an island in the Mediterranean Sea.

Antioch; the metropolis of Syria. This explains what was briefly said, Acts 8:4, and showed what places the disciples were scattered into, and preached in.

They preached to

the Jews only, because they were not yet persuaded of the calling of the Gentiles; God suffering them to be enlightened by degrees.

Now they which were scattered abroad,.... These were not the apostles, but the other ministers of the word; see Acts 8:1 who were dispersed

upon the persecution that arose about Stephen; his preaching and miracles, his oration in defence of himself, and his death: these

travelled as far as Phenice; a country near to Syria and Galilee; its chief towns and cities were Tripolis, Botrys, Biblus, Berytus, Tyre, Sidon, Ecdippa, Ptolemais, and Dora. It was famous, as Pliny says (x), for the invention of letters, and of the constellations, and of naval and warlike arts. It was a maritime country, reaching from Orthosia (now called Tortosa) to Pelusium, or from Sidon to the borders of Egypt: it is the same with Old Canaan, and was so called, and had its name from Canaan; who, according to Sanchuniathon (y), also had the name of Phoenix, from whom this country was called Phoenice, or Phoenicia. Some think the name is the same with "Pahanah", or , "Peoth Anak", the corners of the Anakites; it being the tract of land which the children of Anak, or the giants inhabited, when drove out of Hebron by Caleb, Joshua 15:13. Others say, it had its name from the palm trees, with which it abounded; and here, it seems, dwelt some of God's elect, who being made righteous, flourished like the palm trees;

and Cyprus and Antioch; the former of these was an island, lying between the shores of Syria and Cilicia: it had Syria on the east, Pamphilia on the west, and Phoenice on the south, and Cilicia on the north; See Gill on Acts 4:36 and the latter was a city of Syria, built by Seleucus, king of Egypt, and called Antiochia, after his father's name Antiochus. The account Josephus gives (z) of it is, that it is the metropolis of Syria, and that for its greatness, and other happy acquirements, it has, without doubt, the third place among the cities in the Roman empire; meaning, that it was the next to Rome and Alexandria: and elsewhere (a) he calls it the palace or royal seat of the Syrians; and the Jews, when they speak of a great city, and would describe one, instance in Antioch, a great city, say they (b), as Antioch; with them, it is the same as Hemath the great, spoken of in Amos 6:2 on which words Jerom has this note:

"Hemath the great is what is now called Antioch; and it is called the great, to distinguish it from the lesser Hemath, which is called Epiphania''

And so the Jerusalem Targum on Genesis 10:18 renders the Hamathite, "Antioch": and the Targum of Jonathan on Numbers 13:21 renders Hamath by "Antioch". Here many Jews dwelt, to whom the ministers of the word preached the Gospel only at first. Josephus (c) speaks of many in this place, and gives reasons for it:

"the nation of the Jews, he says, was much spread throughout the whole world, and great part of Syria, because near, was mixed with them, especially there were many in Antioch; partly because of the greatness of the city, and chiefly because of the liberty of dwelling there, granted them by the successors of Antiochus; for Antiochus, called Epiphanes, having wasted Jerusalem, robbed the temple; but those that reigned after him, whatsoever among the things devoted to sacred use were of brass, they returned to the Jews in Antioch, to be laid up in their synagogue; and they granted to them equally to partake of the city with the Greeks; and many of the Grecians they brought over to their religion, and made them, in some sort, a part of themselves.''

Here the Jews also had schools and taught: it is said (d) R. Samlai taught in Antioch; and here also was a sanhedrim. It is often said (e), that Nebuchadnezzar came and sat down at Daphne of Antioch, and the great sanhedrim went out to meet him. Now Antioch was formerly called Epidaphne, because it was near a fountain of that name; and in the Targumists on Numbers 34:11 Daphne answers to Riblah, which was in the land of Hamath, 2 Kings 23:33 and Riblah, Jerom (f) says, is what is now called Antioch of Syria: and that you may know, says he, that Riblah signifies this city, which is now the most noble in Coele Syria, it follows, over against the fountain, (in Numbers it is, "on the east side of Ain",) which, it is clear, signifies Daphne, out of which fountain the above said city enjoys abundance of water. And so Josephus calls Antioch (g), Antiochia which is by Daphne of Syria; and in:

"Which when Onias knew of a surety, he reproved him, and withdrew himself into a sanctuary at Daphne, that lieth by Antiochia.'' (2 Maccabees 4:33)

Daphne is said to be by Antioch. Some make it to be two hundred and eighty miles from Jerusalem. So far they went who were scattered abroad at Stephen's death, and carried the Gospel to this and other places, in which there was a manifest appearance of divine Providence, and of rich grace.

Preaching the word to none but to the Jews only, which dwelt in those parts; so little was the commission of Christ, to preach the Gospel to all nations, understood, though it was so plain; or so it was ordered in providence, that as it was to be first preached to them, so it should be only for a while, till the elect of God of that generation were brought in, and until the rest put it away from them, and so were left without excuse.

(x) L. 5. c. 12. (y) Apud Euseb. Prepar. Evangel. l. 2. p. 39. (z) De Bello Jud. l. 3. c. 2. sect. 4. (a) Antiqu. l. 17. c. 5. sect. 7. (b) T. Hieros. Erubin, fol. 22. 4. (c) De Bello Jud. l. 7. c. 3. sect. 3.((d) T. Hieros. Kiddushin, fol. 64. 4. (e) T. Hieros. Shekalim, fol. 50. 2. Vajikra Rabba, sect. 19. fol. 161. 1. Prefat. Eccha Rabbati. fol. 41. 1.((f) Comment. in Ezekiel 47.fol. 261. C. (g) Antiqu. l. 17. c. 2. sect. 3.

{3} Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and {a} Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.

(3) The scattering abroad of Jerusalem is the cause of the gathering together of many other churches.

(a) He speaks of Antioch which was in Syria and bordered upon Cilicia.

Acts 11:19-20. Οἱ μὲν οὖν διασπαρέντες] A resumption of Acts 8:4, in order now to narrate a still further advance, which Christianity had made in consequence of that dispersion,—namely, to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, for the most part, indeed, among the Jews, yet also (Acts 11:20) among the Gentiles, the latter at Antioch.[266]

ἀπὸ τ. θλίψ.] on account of (on occasion of) the tribulation. Comp. Herm. ad Soph. El. 65.

ἐπὶ Στεφάνῳ] Luther rightly renders: over Stephen, i.e. on account of Stephen. Comp. Erasmus, Beza, Bengel, and others, including de Wette. See Winer, p. 367 [E. T. 489 f.]; Ellendt, Lex Soph. I. p. 649. Others (Alberti, Wolf, Heumann, Palairet, Kypke, Heinrichs, Kuinoel, Olshausen) render: post Stephanum. Linguistically admissible (Bernhardy, p. 249), but less simple, as post Stephanum would have again to be explained as e medio sublato Stephano.

ἦσαν δέ τινες ἐξ αὐτῶν] does not apply to ἸΟΥΔΑΊΟΙς (Heinrichs, Kuinoel), as the ΔΈ, corresponding to the ΜΈΝ, Acts 11:19, requires for ΑὐΤῶΝ the reference to the subject of Acts 11:19 (the ΔΙΑΣΠΑΡΈΝΤΕς), and as ΟἽΤΙΝΕς ἘΛΘΌΝΤΕς ΕἸς ἈΝΤΙΌΧΕΙΑΝ, Acts 11:20, so corresponds to the ΔΙῆΛΘΟΝ ἝΩςἈΝΤΙΟΧΕΊΑς of Acts 11:19, that a diversity of the persons spoken of could not but of necessity be indicated. The correct interpretation is: “The dispersed travelled through (the countries, comp. Acts 8:4, Acts 9:38) as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, delivering the gospel (ΤῸΝ ΛΌΓΟΝ, ΚΑΤʼ ἘΞΟΧΉΝ, as in Acts 8:4, Acts 6:4, and frequently) to the Jews only (Acts 11:19); but some of them (of the dispersed), Cyprians and Cyrenians by birth, proceeded otherwise; having come to Antioch, they preached the word to the Gentiles there.” Comp. de Wette and Lekebusch, p. 105.

ΤΟῪς ἝΛΛΗΝΑς] is the national contrast to Ἰουδαίοις, Acts 11:19, and therefore embraces as well the Gentiles proper as the proselytes who had not become incorporated into Judaism by circumcision. To understand only the proselytes (Rinck), would be a limitation not founded here in the text, as in Acts 14:1.

[266] The preaching to the Gentiles at Antioch is not to be placed before the baptism of Cornelius (Gieseler in Staeudl. Archiv. IV. 2, p. 310, Baur, Schneckenburger, Wieseler, Lechler), but it was after that event that the missionary activity of the dispersed advanced so far. See Acts 15:7.

Acts 11:19-26. Further spread of the Gosael to Antioch.

19–26. Further spread of the Gospel as far as Antioch

19. about Stephen] See above, Acts 8:1.

as far as Phenice [Phœnicia] The district in which were the important towns of Tyre and Sidon. See Dictionary of the Bible.

Antioch] The capital city of Syria, about 16 miles from the sea-coast, on the river Orontes. It was the residence of the Roman proconsul of Syria. St Paul made this his starting-point in all his three missionary journeys. For its history see Dictionary of the Bible.

unto the Jews only] For they had not been warned, as Peter was, that the time was come to carry out Christ’s prophetic command (Acts 1:8) to its fullest extent.

Acts 11:19. Ἐπὶ Στεφάνῳ, concerning Stephen) The violence against Stephen was in continuation directed towards others.—διῆλθον ἕως, passed on [through] to, travelled as far as) So too Acts 11:22. They preached the Gospel also in the nearer places.—Φοινίκης, καὶ Κύπρου, καὶ Ἀντιοχείας, to Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch) Phenice was to the north; Cyprus, to the west; Antioch, to the east.—Ἰουδαίοις, to Jews) Such as were themselves “scattered abroad” [just as these Christian Evangelists, Acts 11:19].

Verse 19. - They therefore that for now they which, A.V.; tribulation for persecution, A.V.; Phoenicia for Phenice, A.V.; speaking for preaching, A.V.; save only to Jews for but unto the Jews only, A.V. Scattered abroad; as in Acts 8:1, to which point of time the narrative now reverts. Tribulation (θλίψις). The word in Acts 8:1 for "persecution" is διωγμός. Phoenicia. "The strip of coast, one hundred and twenty miles long, and about twelve broad, from the river Eleutherus" to a little south of Carmel, as far as Dora, including, therefore, Sidon and Tyre, but excluding Ceasarea. The name was preserved in the great Tyrian colony of Carthage, as appears in the ethnic forms, Paenus, Punicus, and Paeuicus, applied to the Carthaginians. We are all familiar with the "Punic Wars," Punica fides, the 'Paenulus' of Plautus, etc. Cyprus lies off the coast of Phoenicia, in sight of it, and was very early colonized by the Phoenicians. Philo and Josephus both speak of the Jewish population in Cyprus. Antioch, the capital of the Greek kingdom of Syria, on the river Orontes, built by the first king, Seleueus Nicater, in honor of his father Antiochus, who was one of Alexander the Great's generals. It lay about one hundred and eighty miles north of the northern frontier of Phoenicia. There was a large population of Jews, whom Seleucus attracted to his new city by giving them equal political privileges with the Greeks. It was reckoned by Josephus to be the third city in importance of the whole Roman empire, Rome and Alexandria being the two first. Acts 11:19They which were scattered abroad (οἱ διασπαρέντες)

On the technical expression, the dispersion, see on 1 Peter 1:1. Not so used here.

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