Acts 16:3
Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.
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(3) And took and circumcised him.—The act seems at first inconsistent with St. Paul’s conduct as to Titus (Galatians 2:3), and with his general teaching as to circumcision (Galatians 5:2-6). The circumstances of the two cases were, however, different, and there were adequate reasons here for the course which he adopted. (1) The act was spontaneous, and men may rightly concede as a favour, or as a matter of expediency, what they would be justified in resisting when demanded as a matter of necessity. (2) Titus was a Greek, pure and simple (Galatians 2:3); but the mixed parentage of Timotheus, according to the received canons of Jewish law, made him inherit from the nobler side, and he was therefore by birth in the same position as an Israelite. (3) By not urging circumcision prior to baptism, or to his admission to that “breaking of bread” which was then, as afterwards, the witness of a full communion with Christ, the Apostle had shown that he did not look on it as essential to admission into the Christian Church, or continued fellowship with it, and in what he now did he was simply acting on his avowed principle of becoming to the Jews as a Jew (see Notes on Acts 18:18; 1Corinthians 9:20), and guarding against the difficulties which he would have encountered from those whom he sought to win to Christ, had they seen, as one of the travelling company, an Israelite who was ashamed of the seal of the covenant of Abraham. The acceptance of that seal by one who had grown up to manhood without it may be noted as showing that the disciple had imbibed the spirit of his Master. It seems probable, from the youth of Timotheus, that at this period he took the place which had been before filled by Mark, and acted chiefly as an attendant, the “work of an evangelist” coming later (2Timothy 4:5).

16:1-5 Well may the church look for much service from youthful ministers who set out in the same spirit as Timothy. But when men will submit in nothing, and oblige in nothing, the first elements of the Christian temper seem to be wanting; and there is great reason to believe that the doctrines and precepts of the gospel will not be successfully taught. The design of the decree being to set aside the ceremonial law, and its carnal ordinances, believers were confirmed in the Christian faith, because it set up a spiritual way of serving God, as suited to the nature both of God and man. Thus the church increased in numbers daily.Him would Paul have ... - This was an instance of Paul's selecting young men of piety for the holy ministry. It shows:

(1) That he was disposed to look up and call forth the talent in the church that might be usefully employed. It is quite evident that Timothy would not have thought of this had it not been suggested by Paul. The same thing education societies are attempting now to accomplish.

(2) that Paul sought proper qualifications, and valued them. Those were:

(a) That he had a good reputation for piety, etc., Acts 16:2. This he demanded as an indispensable qualification for a minister of the gospel 1 Timothy 3:7, "Moreover he (a bishop) must have a good report of them which are without." Compare Acts 22:12.

(b) Paul esteemed him to be a young man of talents and prudence. His admitting him to a partnership in his labors, and his entrusting to him the affairs of the church at Ephesus, prove this.

(c) He had been carefully trained in the holy Scriptures. A foundation was thus laid for usefulness. And this qualification seems to have been deemed by Paul of indispensable value for the right discharge of his duties in this holy office.

And took and circumcised him - This was evidently done to avoid the opposition and reproaches of the Jews. It was a measure not binding in itself (compare Acts 15:1, Acts 15:28-29), but the neglect of which would expose to contention and opposition among the Jews, and greatly retard or destroy his usefulness. It was an act of expediency for the sake of peace, and was in accordance with Paul's uniform and avowed principle of conduct, 1 Corinthians 9:20, "And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews." Compare Acts 21:23-26.

3. Him would Paul have to go forth with him—This is in harmony with all we read in the Acts and Epistles of Paul's affectionate and confiding disposition. He had no relative ties which were of service to him in his work; his companions were few and changing; and though Silas would supply the place of Barnabas, it was no weakness to yearn for the society of one who might become, what Mark once appeared to be, a son in the Gospel [Howson]. And such he indeed proved to be, the most attached and serviceable of his associates (Php 2:19-23; 1Co 4:17; 16:10, 11; 1Th 3:1-6). His double connection, with the Jews by the mother's side and the Gentiles by the father's, would strike the apostle as a peculiar qualification for his own sphere of labor. "So far as appears, Timothy is the first Gentile who after his conversion comes before us as a regular missionary; for what is said of Titus (Ga 2:3) refers to a later period" [Wies]. But before his departure, Paul

took and circumcised him—a rite which every Israelite might perform.

because of the Jews … for they knew all that his father was a Greek—This seems to imply that the father was no proselyte. Against the wishes of a Gentile father no Jewish mother was, as the Jews themselves say, permitted to circumcise her son. We thus see why all the religion of Timothy is traced to the female side of the family (2Ti 1:5). "Had Timothy not been circumcised, a storm would have gathered round the apostle in his farther progress. His fixed line of procedure was to act on the cities through the synagogues; and to preach the Gospel to the Jew first and then to the Gentile. But such a course would have been impossible had not Timothy been circumcised. He must necessarily have been repelled by that people who endeavored once to murder Paul because they imagined he had taken a Greek into the temple (Ac 21:29). The very intercourse of social life would have been almost impossible, for it was still "an abomination" for the circumcised to eat with the uncircumcised" [Howson]. In refusing to compel Titus afterwards to be circumcised (Ga 2:3) at the bidding of Judaizing Christians, as necessary to salvation, he only vindicated "the truth of the Gospel" (Ga 2:5); in circumcising Timothy, "to the Jews he became as a Jew that he might gain the Jews." Probably Timothy's ordination took place now (1Ti 4:14; 2Ti 1:6); and it was a service, apparently, of much solemnity—"before many witnesses" (1Ti 6:12).

Circumcised him because of the Jews, who could not yet be persuaded that the law of circumcision was abrogated. Paul, who became all things to all men, that he might save some, circumcised Timothy that he might not offend the Jewish converts, 1 Corinthians 9:22, but would not circumcise Titus, Galatians 2:3, lest that he should harden them, and offend the Gentiles. These indifferent things require a single eye, to the edifying of the church, and the salvation of souls. Timothy was uncircumcised, although his mother was a Jewess; for according to their Talmudists, the mother could not cause her child to be circumcised against the mind of the father.

Him would Paul have to go forth with him,.... Perceiving that he was a young man, that not only had the grace of God, but very considerable gifts, and abilities for ministerial service; and having a good testimony of his agreeable life and conversation, the apostle was very desirous he should go along with him, and be his companion in his travels, and be an assistant to him in the work of the ministry; and accordingly he was, and is often spoken of in his epistles, as his fellowlabourer, and one that served with him in the Gospel of Christ, and who was very dear unto him:

and took and circumcised him; which may seem strange, when there had been so lately a controversy in the church at Antioch about circumcision, from whence the apostle was just come; and when this matter had been debated and determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem, where he was present, and he was now carrying about their decrees: but it is to be observed, that the apostle used circumcision not as a duty of the law, as what that required, and in obedience to it, which he knew was abrogated; much less as necessary to salvation, which the judaizing preachers urged; but as an indifferent thing, and in order to gain a point, and secure some valuable end, as follows

because of the Jews which were in those quarters; not the believing ones, for he brought along with him the decrees of the apostles and elders to satisfy them, that circumcision was not necessary; but the unbelieving ones, who he knew would not suffer an uncircumcised person to teach in their synagogues, nor would they hear him out of them; wherefore having a mind to take Timothy with him to be assisting to him in the preaching of the Gospel, in point of prudence he thought it proper to circumcise him, that he might be received by them, and be the more acceptable to them; who would otherwise have taken such an offence at him, as not to have heard him: thus the apostle to the Jews became a Jew, that he might gain and save some, 1 Corinthians 9:20 for they knew all that his father was a Greek; and that therefore he was not circumcised; for a woman might not circumcise, because she was not a fit subject of circumcision herself (t); though in case of necessity circumcision by women was allowed of (u).

(t) T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 27. 1.((u) Maimon. Hilchot. Mila, c. 2. sect. 1.

{2} Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.

(2) Timothy is circumcised, not simply for any necessity, but in respect of the time only, in order to win the Jews.

Acts 16:3. Apart from his superior personal qualifications, fostered by a pious education (2 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 3:15), Timothy was also well adapted to be the coadjutor of the apostle from the peculiar external relation in which he stood as belonging by parentage both to the Jewish and to the Gentile Christians.

λαβὼν περιέτεμεν] he took and circumcised. There is no reason whatever to suppose that Paul should not have himself performed this act, which might in fact be done by any Israelite (comp. on Luke 1:59).

διὰ τοὺς Ἰουδαίους] namely, to avoid the offence which the Jews in the region of Lystra and Iconium would have taken, had Paul associated with himself one who was uncircumcised to go forth (ἐξελθεῖν) as his colleague in proclaiming the Messianic salvation. Paul acted thus according to the principle of wise and conciliatory accommodation (1 Corinthians 9:19), and not out of concession to the Judaistic dogma of the necessity of circumcision for obtaining the Messianic salvation.[47] He acted thus in order to leave no cause of offence at his work among the yet unconverted Jews of that region, and not to please Christian Judaists, to whom, if they had demanded the circumcision of Timothy, as they did that of Titus at Jerusalem (Galatians 2:3 f.), he would as little have yielded as he did in the case of Titus. This entirely non-dogmatic motive for the measure, which was neither demanded by others nor yet took place with a view to Timothy’s own salvation or to the necessity of circumcision for salvation generally, removes it from all contradiction either with the apostolic decree (Acts 15:29) or with Galatians 2:3; for in the case of Titus circumcision was demanded by others against his will, and that on the ground of dogmatic assertion, and so Paul could not allow that to be done on Titus (comp. Galatians 5:2) which he himself performed on Timothy. This we remark in opposition to Baur and Zeller, who attack our narrative as unhistorical, because it stands radically at variance with the apostle’s principles and character, so that it belongs “to the absolutely incredible element in the Book of Acts” (Baur, I. p. 147, ed. 2). See, on the other hand, Lechler in the Wurtemb. Stud. xix. 2, p. 130 ff., and apost. und nachapost. Zeitalt. p. 419; Thiersch, Kirche im apost. Zeitalt. p. 136 f.; Lekebusch, p. 272 ff.; Baumgarten, I. p. 483 ff. Chrysostom has hit in the main on the correct interpretation: οὐδὲν Παύλου συνετώτερον· ὥστε πάντα πρὸς τὸ συμφέρον ἑώραπεριέτεμεν ἵνα περιτομὴν καθέλῃ. But the canon insisted on in the Talmud: partus sequitur ventrem (see Wetstein), can hardly have been taken into consideration by the apostle (in opposition to Thiersch and Lange, apost. Zeitalt. I. p. 102 f.), because Timothy was already a Christian, and thus beyond the stage of Judaism; and therefore it is not to be assumed, with Ewald, p. 482, that Paul had wished merely to remove the reproach of illegitimacy from Timothy—even laying aside the fact that Jewesses were not prohibited from marrying Gentiles, with the exception only of the seven Canaanitish nations (Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:1 ff.). The circumstance: υἱὸς γυναικὸς κ.τ.λ., Acts 16:1, serves only to explain whence it happens that Timothy, whose Christian mother was known to be a Jewess; was yet uncircumcised; the father was a Gentile, and had in his paternal authority left him uncircumcised.

Observe, according to the correct reading ὅτι Ἕλλην ὁ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ ὑπῆρχεν (see the critical remarks), the suitable emphasis with which the predicate is placed first: that a Greek his father was. ὑπάρχειν in the sense of ΕἾΝΑΙ is used most frequently in the N.T. by Luke. An antithesis to ΦΑΊΝΕΣΘΑΙ is arbitrarily and unsuitably imported by Otto.

[47] Erasmus in his Paraphrase (dedicated to Pope Clement VII.) observes: “Non quod crederet circumcisionem conferre salutem, quam sola fides adferebat, sed ne quid tumultus oriretur a Judaeis.” Observe this distinctively Lutheran sola fides.

Acts 16:3. περιέτεμεν αὐτὸν: the act might be performed by any Israelite; cf. Genesis 17:23 for a similar phrase which may indicate that St. Raul performed the act himself. See also Ramsay, Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, ii., 674; the marriage and the exemption of Timothy from the Mosaic law may be regarded as typical of a relaxation of the exclusive Jewish standard in Lycaonia and Phrygia, and an approximation of the Jew to the pagan population around him, confirmed as it is by the evidence of inscriptions.—διὰ τοὺς Ἰ.: the true answer to the objection raised against Paul’s conduct may be found in his own words, 1 Corinthians 9:20 (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:19). As a missionary he would have to make his way amongst the unbelieving Jews in the parts which were most hostile to him, viz., Antioch and Iconium, on his road into Asia. All along this frequented route of trade he would find colonies of Jews in close communication, and the story of Timothy’s parentage would be known (Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 180). But if so, his own usefulness and that of Timothy would be impaired, since his Jewish countrymen would take offence at seeing him in close intercourse with an uncircumcised person (a reason which McGiffert admits to be conceivable, Apostolic Age, p. 232), and Timothy would have been unacceptable to them, since with a Jewish mother and with a Jewish education he would be regarded as one who refused to adhere to the Jewish rule: “partus sequitur ventrem” (see Wetstein and Nösgen), and to remedy the one fatal flaw which separated him from them: see, however, B. Weiss, Die Briefe Pauli an ., Introd., p. 2, who disagrees with this reason, whilst he lays stress on the other reason mentioned above. On the other hand, both among unbelieving and Christian Jews alike the circumcision of Timothy would not fail to produce a favourable impression. Amongst the former the fact that the convert thus submitted even in manhood to this painful rite would have afforded the clearest evidence that neither he nor his spiritual father despised the seal of the covenant for those who were Jews according to the flesh, whilst the Christian Jews would see in the act a loyal adherence to the Jerusalem decree. It was no question of enforcing circumcision upon Timothy as if it were necessary to salvation; it was simply a question of what was necessary under the special circumstances in which both he and Paul were to seek to gain a hearing for the Gospel on the lines of the Apostolic policy: “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek”; “neque salutis æternæ causa Timotheus circumciditur, sed utilitatis, Blass, cf. Godet, Epître aux Romains, i., pp. 43, 44; Hort, Judaistic Christianity, pp. 85–87; Knabenbauer, in loco. “There is no time in Paul’s life when we should suppose him less likely to circumcise one of his converts,” says McGiffert, u. s., p. 233, but there were converts and converts, and none has pointed out more plainly than McGiffert that the case of Titus and that of Timothy stood on totally different grounds, and none has insisted on this more emphatically than St. Paul himself: ἀλλʼ οὐδὲ Τίτος, Galatians 2:3. The case of Titus was a case of principle: Titus was a Greek, and if St. Paul had yielded, there would have been no need for the Apostle’s further attendance at the conference as the advocate of freedom for the Gentile Churches. In the words Ἕλλην ὤν, Galatians 2:3, there may have been a tacit allusion to the different position of Timothy, whose parentage was different, and not wholly Gentile as in the case of Titus. For a defence of the historical nature of the incident as against the strictures of Baur, Zeller, Overbeck, Weizsäcker, see Wendt, 1898 and 1899, who regards St. Paul’s action as falling under the Apostle’s own principle, 1 Corinthians 9:19.—ὑπῆρχεν: Blass translates fuerat, and sees in the word an intimation that the father was no longer living, otherwise we should have ὑπάρχει, cf. Salmon, Hermathena, xxi., p. 229.

3. and circumcised him] It must be remembered that the decree of the synod of Jerusalem only related to the exemption of Gentiles from circumcision. It was a very different thing for a Jew to consent to become a fellow-worshipper in the Christian churches with a Gentile who remained uncircumcised, and to tolerate, at this time, the non-observance of the rite by one who was counted for a Jew. For by the Rabbinical code the child of a Jewish mother was reckoned as a Jew (T. J. Jebamoth, ii. 6). It was because of this prejudice that Timothy was circumcised. It could be no offence to the Gentiles, and would render the labours of Timothy more acceptable to the Jews. Because he was the child of a mixed marriage the rite had been unobserved, and so long as he did not come forward as a teacher, there would be no need felt that it should be enforced, and there would be doubtless many others of a like class. But when he was to take a share in the missionary labours of St Paul all this was altered. He would at once have been met with the objection from the Jews, that he who had been but a bad Jew was not likely to guide others right as a Christian teacher. That St Paul saw no inconsistency in what was done in this matter is clear, for the narrative of St Luke tells us in the next verse that to the churches to which they went forth he delivered the decrees of the synod at Jerusalem.

Acts 16:3. Λαβὼν) This is redundant.—διὰ τοὺς Ἰουδαίους, on account of the Jews) For there was no longer need to do so on account of believers [because of the Jerusalem ordinance]: Acts 16:4.

Verse 3. - He took for took, A.V.; that for which, A.V.; parts for quarters, A.V.; all knew for knew all, A.V. Circumcised him. The Jewish origin of Timothy on his mother's side was a sufficient reason for circumcising him, according to the maxim, Partus sequitur ventrem. And it could be done without prejudice to the rights of Gentile converts as established in the decrees of which St. Paul was bearer. Because of the Jews; not the Christian Jews, who ought to know better than trust in circumcision, but the unbelieving Jews, who would be scandalized if St. Paul had an uncircumcised man for his fellow-laborer (see 1 Corinthians 10:20). Acts 16:3To go forth (ἐξελθεῖν)

The word is used of going forth as a missionary in Luke 9:6; 3 John 1:7.

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