Acts 13:7
Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKJTLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBVWSWESTSK
(7) Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulius.—The translators consistently use the word “deputy” as representing the Greek for “proconsul.” It will be remembered that it was applied, under Elizabeth and James, to the governor, known in more recent times as the Viceroy, or Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and was therefore a very close approximation to the meaning of the Latin. The provinces of the Roman empire, under the organisation of Augustus, were divided (B.C. 27) into two classes. Those that were looked on as needing direct military control were placed under the emperor as commander of the legions, and were governed by proprætors, or generals; the others were left to the Senate, and were under the rule of proconsuls. Strabo (xiv. ad fin.) describes Cyprus as a military or proprætorian province, and this has led some to question St. Luke’s accuracy. It appears, however, that Augustus, in A.D. 22, re-assigned it to the Senate (Dio. Cass. iv. p. 523). Coins of Cyprus are extant, bearing the date of Claudius, and the name of Cominius Proclus as proconsul (Akerman, Numismatic Illustrations, pp. 39-42), and as stated above (Note on Acts 13:4), one has recently been discovered in Cyprus itself, in which that title appears as borne by one of the name of Paulus. Under Hadrian, it appears to have been under a proprætor; under Severus, it was again under a proconsul. Of the proconsul himself we know nothing certain more than is recorded here. The name probably implied a connection with the old Æmilian gens, among whom, as in the case of the great conqueror of Macedonia, it was a favourite cognomen. Dr. Lightfoot has, however, pointed out that Pliny, writing circ. A.D. 90, names a Sergius Paulus as his chief authority for the facts in Books 2 and 18 of his Natural History, and that among these are two specially connected with Cyprus; and that Galen, writing circ. A.D. 150, speaks of one bearing the same name, also a proconsul, as a contemporary of his own, and as distinguished for his love of wisdom. Here, of course, identity is out of the question, but relationship is, at least, probable.

A prudent man.—The adjective describes what we should call general intelligence and discernment, as in Matthew 11:25; Luke 10:21; 1Corinthians 1:19. It was shown in this instance in his at once recognising the higher type of character presented by the Apostles, and desiring to know more of the “word” which they spake to him as a message from God.

13:4-13 Satan is in a special manner busy with great men and men in power, to keep them from being religious, for their example will influence many. Saul is here for the first time called Paul, and never after Saul. Saul was his name as he was a Hebrew; Paul was his name as he was a citizen of Rome. Under the direct influence of the Holy Ghost, he gave Elymas his true character, but not in passion. A fulness of deceit and mischief together, make a man indeed a child of the devil. And those who are enemies to the doctrine of Jesus, are enemies to all righteousness; for in it all righteousness is fulfilled. The ways of the Lord Jesus are the only right ways to heaven and happiness. There are many who not only wander from these ways themselves, but set others against these ways. They commonly are so hardened, that they will not cease to do evil. The proconsul was astonished at the force of the doctrine upon his own heart and conscience, and at the power of God by which it was confirmed. The doctrine of Christ astonishes; and the more we know of it, the more reason we shall see to wonder at it. Those who put their hand to the plough and look back, are not fit for the kingdom of God. Those who are not prepared to face opposition, and to endure hardship, are not fitted for the work of the ministry.Which was with the deputy - Or with the proconsul. The exact accuracy of Luke in this statement is worthy of special remark. In the time when Augustus united the world under his own power, the provinces were divided into two classes. Augustus found two names which were applied to public officers in existence, one of which was henceforward inseparably blended with the imperial dignity and with military command, and the other with the authority of the senate and its civil administration. The first of these names was "Praetor"; the other was "Consul." What is to be accounted for here is that the latter is the name given by Luke to Sergius Paulus, as if he derived his authority from the senate. The difficulty in the ease is this: that Augustus told the senate and the people of Rome that he would resign to them those provinces where soldiers were unnecessary to secure a peaceful administration, and that he would himself take the care and risk of the other provinces where the presence of the Roman legions would be necessary.

Hence, in the time of Augustus, and in the subsequent reigns of the emperors, the provinces were divided into these two classes; the one governed by men who went forth from the senate, and who would be styled Proconsul, ἀνθύπατος anthupatos - the term used here; and the other those sent forth by the emperor, and who would be styled Procurator, Ἐπίτροπος Epitropos or Proproetor, Ἀντιστράτηγος Antistratēgos. Both these kind of officers are referred to in the New Testament. Now we are told by Strabo and Dio Cassius that "Asaia" and "Achaia" were assigned to the senate, and the title, therefore, of the governor would be Proconsul, as we find in Acts 18:12; Acts 19:38. At the same time, Dio Cassius informs us that Cyprus was retained by the emperor for himself, and the title of the governor, therefore, would naturally have been, not "Proconsul," as here, but "Procurator." Yet it so happens that Dio Cassius has stated the reason why the title "Proconsul" was given to the governor of Cyprus, in the fact which he mentions that "Augustus restored Cyprus to the senate in exchange for another district of the empire." It is this statement which vindicates the strict accuracy of Luke in the passage before us. See Life and Epistles of Paul, vol. 1, pp. 142-144, and also Lardner's Credibility, part 1, chapter 1, section 11, where he has fully vindicated the accuracy of the appellation which is here given to Sergius by Luke.

Sergius Paulus, a prudent man - The word here rendered "prudent" means "intelligent, wise, learned." It also may have the sense of candid, and may have been given to this man because he was of large and liberal views; of a philosophic and inquiring turn of mind; and was willing to obtain knowledge from any source. Hence, he had entertained the Jews; and hence, he was willing also to listen to Barnabas and Saul. It is not often that men of rank are thus willing to listen to the instructions of the professed ministers of God.

Who called for Barnabas and Saul - It is probable that they had preached in Paphos, and Sergius was desirous himself of hearing the import of their new doctrine.

And desired to hear ... - There is no evidence that he then wished to listen to this as divine truth, or that he was anxious about his own salvation, but it was rather as a speculative inquiry. It was a professed characteristic of many ancient philosophers that they were willing to receive instruction from any quarter. Compare Acts 17:19-20.

7. Which was with the deputy—properly, "the proconsul." This name was reserved for the governors of settled provinces, which were placed under the Roman Senate, and is never given in the New Testament to Pilate, Felix, or Festus, who were but procurators, or subordinate administrators of unsettled, imperial, military provinces. Now as Augustus reserved Cyprus for himself, its governor would in that case have been not a proconsul, but simply a procurator, had not the emperor afterwards restored it to the Senate, as a Roman historian [Dio Cassius] expressly states. In most striking confirmation of this minute accuracy of the sacred historian, coins have actually been found in the island, stamped with the names of proconsuls, both in Greek and Latin [Akerman, Numismatic Illustrations of the New Testament]. (Grotius and Bengel, not aware of this, have missed the mark here).

Sergius Paulus, a prudent man—an intelligent man, who thirsting for truth, sent for Barnabas and Saul, desiring ("earnestly desiring") to hear the Word of God.

The deputy of the country; whether he was pro-consul or proprietor, it is in effect the same; for he it was that governed the island.

Desired to hear the word of God; this desire was extraordinary, and wrought by God, in order to the fitting him for the further mercy of his conversion and salvation. Where such a desire is, it shall be granted: Ask, and it shall be given you, Luke 11:9. Which was with the deputy of the country, &c. Or the Roman governor of the island; who very likely dwelt at Paphos, it being a principal, if not the principal city in the island, since Pliny mentions it first of all the cities in it, as before observed: and with this governor, or proconsul, as the word signifies, or rather praetor, Bar-jesus was: either he lived with him, making great pretensions to knowledge and learning, which the governor might be a favourer of, or in quality of a physician; the Ethiopic version adds, "and he was a servant of the governor"; or he might be only with him occasionally and accidentally, just at that time, though the former seems most likely: and the name of this deputy was Sergius Paulus; the name of Paulus was common among the Romans; Pliny the younger speaks (b) of one Passienus Paulus, a famous Roman knight, and very learned, who wrote elegies; and Trajan (c), in an epistle to him, makes mention of Paulus the proconsul; and Pliny the older, among his authors from whom he compiled his history, cites one of this very name, Sergius Paulus (d). The island of Cyprus was at this time in the hands of the Romans, and this man was the governor of it; it was first inhabited by some of the sons of Japhet; Josephus (e) assigns it to Cittim: Cittim, he says,

"had the island Chetima, which now is called Cyprus; and from it all the islands, and most places about the sea, are called Chethim by the Hebrews; and as a proof of what I say, (adds he,) one of the cities in Cyprus still retains the name; for it is called Citium by those who have made it Greek, and not much differing from the name Chethimus.''

After the Trojan war, it came into the hands of the Grecians; and continued with them from the times of Teucer, until Evagoras and his son Nicocles; and then it fell into the hands of the Romans, and through them to the kings of Egypt; and after them became a Roman colony, in the following manner: Clodius Pulcher condemned Cyprus to the Roman people, to possess which Cato being sent, Ptolomy the king of the island, having cast his money into the sea, prevented the ignominy of it by a voluntary death, Anno U. C. 698 (f). The Roman historian says (g), Cyprus being conquered, the glory of it was not assigned to any, seeing it was made a province by the decree of the senate, by the means of Cato, through the death of the king, which he brought upon himself; and from that time, as Strabo says (h), it became a praetorian province, and was now governed by a praetor, though he is called a deputy, or proconsul; the reason of which Dr. Hammond thinks was, because that P. Lentulus, Ap. Claudius, and M. Cicero, being proconsuls of Cilicia, had the administration of Cyprus also granted to them by the senate; hence afterwards the governors of Cyprus were called proconsuls, or deputies. This same Greek word here used, is adopted by the Jewish Rabbins into their language; hence we read of "the deputy", or "proconsul" of Caesarea (i); which is explained by a governor, and a judge (k) or a third from the king (l); and it is refined in the Syriac version: this deputy is said to be a "prudent man". The Arabic version seems to distinguish Paul the prudent man, from Sergius the deputy, or tribune, as it calls him; reading the words thus, "who was by Sergius the tribune, with Paul a prudent man"; but Sergius and Paulus undoubtedly design one and the same man, who was prudent: he is said to be "a prudent man", in the management of his affairs, as a governor; and might be very learned, ingenious, and an understanding man; a man of great sagacity and penetration, who very likely saw through the vain pretensions, and impostures of Bar-jesus, and was desirous to expose him in a public manner; or at least might conclude he would be discovered and exposed by those good men, who were come into the city; and what follows seems to be mentioned as an instance of his prudence:

who called for Barnabas and Saul; sent messengers to them, to desire them to come to him; Barnabas is mentioned first, though the inferior person, because he was a native of the country, and might be best known:

and desired to hear the word of God; whether this was at first from mere curiosity, or from any political view, or from a true desire of knowing the way of life and salvation, which might be wrought in his soul by the Spirit of God, is not certain; though the latter seems most likely, since it issued in his conversion.

(b) L. 6. Ephesians 15. p. 139. (c) Ib. l. 10. Ephesians 68. p. 267. (d) Elenchos Hist. ex autoribus, l. 2. & 1. 18. (e) Antiqu. l. 1. c. 6. sect. 1.((f) Petav. Rationar. Temp. par. 1. l. 4. c. 18. p. 191. (g) Velleius Paterculus, l. 2.((h) Geograph. l. 14. p. 471. (i) T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 9. 1. Midrash Kohelet, fol. 66. 3. & 82. 2.((k) Arnch apud Mattanot Cehuna in Midrash ib. (l) David de Pomis Lex, Heb. fol. 9. 2.

Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.
Acts 13:7. ὃς ἦν σὺν τῷ ἀ., cf. Acts 4:13. Nothing was more in accordance with what we know of the personnel of the strange groups which often followed the Roman governors as comites, and it is quite possible that Sergius Paulus may have been keenly interested in the powers or assumed powers of the Magian, and in gaining a knowledge of the strange religions which dominated the East. If the Roman had been completely under the influence of the false prophet, it is difficult to believe that St. Luke would have described him as συνετός (a title in which Zöckler sees a distinction between Sergius Paulus and another Roman, Felix, over whom a Jewish Magian gained such influence, Jos., Ant., xx., 7, 2), although magicians of all kinds found a welcome in unexpected quarters in Roman society, even at the hands of otherwise discerning and clear-sighted personages, as the pages of Roman writers from Horace to Lucian testify. It was not the first time in the world’s history that credulity and scepticism had gone hand in hand: Wetstein, in loco; Farrar, St. Paul, i., pp. 351, 352; Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 74 ff.—ἐπεζήτησεν; perhaps means, as in classical Greek, “put questions to them”. The typical Roman is again marked by the fact that he was thus desirous to hear what the travellers would say, and it is also indicated that he was not inclined to submit himself entirely to the Magian.—τῷ ἀνθυπάτῳ: “the proconsul,” R.V., “deputy,” A.V. In the reign of James I. the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was called “the deputy” (cf. Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, i., 2, 161). Under Augustus, B.C. 27, the Roman provinces had been divided into two classes: (1) imperial and (2) senatorial, the former being governed by proprætors or generals, and the latter by proconsuls. But as the first kind of government would often be required when a province was unruly, it frequently happened that the same province might be at one time classed under (1) and at another time under (2). Cyprus had been originally an imperial province, Strabo, xiv., but in 22 B.C. it had been transferred by Augustus to the Senate, and was accordingly, as Luke describes it, under a proconsul, Dio Cassius, liii., 12, liv., 4. Under Hadrian it appears to have been under a proprætor; under Severus it was again under a proconsul. At Soloi, a town on the north coast of Cyprus, an inscription was discovered by General Cesnola, Cyprus, 1877, p. 425 (cf. Hogarth, Devia Cypria, 1889, p. 114), dated ἐπὶ Παύλου (ἀνθ) υπάτου, and the probable identification with Sergius Paulus is accepted by Lightfoot, Zöckler, Ramsay, Knabenbauer, etc.; see especially amongst recent writers Zahn, Einleitung, ii., Excurs. ii., p. 632, for a similar view, and also for information as to date, and as to another and more recent inscription (1887), bearing upon the connnection of the Gens Sergia with Cyprus; see also McGiffert, Apostolic Age, p. 175, note, and Wendt, edition 1899.—συνετῷ: R.V., “a man of understanding,” cf. Matthew 11:25. A.V. and other E.V[255] translate “prudent,” Vulgate, prudens, but see Genevan Version on Matt., u. s.; frequent in LXX in various significations: σύνεσις, practical discernment, intelligence, so συνετός, one who can “put things together” (συνιέναι): σοφία, the wisdom of culture (Grimm-Thayer); on “prudent,” see Humphry, Commentary on R.V., p. 28.

[255] English Version.7. which was with the deputy of the country [proconsul], Sergius Paulus] Under Augustus the Roman provinces were divided into two classes, one class of which (needing the presence of troops for their government, and the possession of which gave the Emperor the control of the army) was called imperatorial, while the others were called senatorial provinces. The former were governed by an officer named proprætor, the latter by a proconsul. We know from Dio Cassius (liii. 12) that Cyprus was originally an imperatorial province, and therefore under a proprætor. This also Strabo confirms (xiv. 685), but says that Augustus made it over to the people along with Cyprus and part of Galatia, and took instead of these Dalmatia for one of his provinces. So that the government was at St Paul’s visit held by a proconsul for the Roman Senate, as is here recorded; and this is another instance of the historic faithfulness of St Luke’s record.

Of Sergius Paulus we know nothing, but the opportunities now afforded, by the English occupation of Cyprus, for the investigation of the antiquities of the island, may lead to some discovery of his name and office in coin or inscription.

a prudent man] The presence of Elymas among his staff shews that the proconsul was a man of enquiring mind, and the same is displayed by his desire to hear Barnabas and Saul.Acts 13:7. Ἦν σὺν τῷ ἀνθυπάτῳ, was with the proconsul [deputy]) ἀνθύπατος, proconsul, was the expression commonly used for proprætor, or proquæstore, among the Cyprians. Elymas was with Sergius Paulus, or was wont to be frequently with him. The latter had either admitted the former of his own will, or had borne with him by a kind of necessity. Yet it was an act of prudence, not to be held fast by his impositions, but to seek the truth. The prudence, which acts with sobriety, watchfulness, and moderation, is a memorable virtue in the case of those, who might esteem power in their magistracy as if it were reason.—οὗτος, he) as being a prudent man. Prudence did not make Sergius positively disposed to faith, but less indisposed towards it.Verse 7. - The proconsul for the deputy of the country, A.V.; a man of understanding for a prudent man, A.V.; the same for who, A.V.; unto him for for, A.V.; sought for desired, A.V. The proconsul (ἀνθύπατος); here and vers. 8, 12. This is an instance of Luke's great accuracy. Cyprus had become a proconsular province in the reign of Claudius, having previously been one of the emperor's provinces governed by a propraetor, or legatus. A man of understanding (ἀνδρὶ συνετῷ). Συνετός is a rare word in the New Testament, and is always translated in the A.V. "prudent" (see Matthew 11:25; Luke 10:21; 1 Corinthians 1:19). It is common in the LXX., where it represents the Hebrew words מַשְׂכִּיל נָבון מֵבִין, and חָכָם, all signifying "intelligence," "skill," "knowledge," and the like. The substantive σύνεσις has the same scope (see Luke 2:47; Ephesians 3:4; Colossians 1:9, etc.); ἀνὴρ συνετός, therefore, means something more than "a prudent man." It means a man of knowledge and superior intelligence and understanding. And such was Sergius Paulus, a noble Roman, who is twice named by Pliny in the list of authors placed at the commencement of his work as the authorities from whom he derived the matter contained in the several books. It is not a little remarkable that the two books, lib. it. and lib. 18, for which Sergius Paulus is quoted are just those which contain accounts of the heavenly bodies, and prognostications from the sun and moon and stars, from thunder, from the clouds, and such like things, which doubtless formed the staple of Elymas's science; so that there can be little doubt that Sergius Paulus had Elymas with him, that he might learn from him such matters as might be useful for the hook which he was writing. There is also a curious passage in lib. 30. cap. 1. of the 'Hist. Nat.'(quoted by Lewin, vol. 1. p. 128), in which Pliny, after enumerating the most famous teachers of magic, Zoroaster, Orthanes, Pythagoras, and others, adds, "There is also another school of magic which springs from Moses and Jannes, who were Jews, but many thousand years later than Zoroaster; so much more recent is the school of Cyprus;" showing that he knew of a school of magic art at Cyprus taught by Jews, and leading us to infer that he had acquired this knowledge either from the pen or the mouth of Sergius Paulus. Anyhow, a remarkable confirmation of St. Luke's narrative. Another Sergius Paulus, who might be a son or grandson of the proconsul, is highly commended by Galen for his eminent philosophical attainments (Lewin, vol. 1. p. 127). One L. Sergius Paulus was consul suffectus in A.D. , another in A.D. . Renan thinks they may have been descendants of the Sergius Paulus in the text. The deputy (ἀνθυπάτῳ)

Better, Rev., proconsul. See Introduction to Luke, on Luke's accuracy in designating public officers.

Sergius Paulus

Di Cesnola relates the discovery at Soli, which, next to Salamis, was the most important city in the island, of a slab with a Greek inscription containing the name of Paulus, proconsul.

Prudent (συνετῷ)

Better, as Rev., a man of understanding. See on Matthew 11:25.

Acts 13:7 Interlinear
Acts 13:7 Parallel Texts

Acts 13:7 NIV
Acts 13:7 NLT
Acts 13:7 ESV
Acts 13:7 NASB
Acts 13:7 KJV

Acts 13:7 Bible Apps
Acts 13:7 Parallel
Acts 13:7 Biblia Paralela
Acts 13:7 Chinese Bible
Acts 13:7 French Bible
Acts 13:7 German Bible

Bible Hub

Acts 13:6
Top of Page
Top of Page