Acts 16:6
Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,
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(6) When they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia.—In the previous journey St. Paul, when he was at Antioch in Pisidia, was just on the border of the two provinces, but had not travelled through them, Phrygia lying to the west, and Galatia to the north-east. The former name was used with an ethnological rather than a political significance, and did not, at this period, designate a Roman province. It does not possess any special points of interest in connection with St. Paul’s work, except as including the churches of the valley of the Lycus, Colossæ, Laodicea, and Thyatira, but the latter was the scene of some of his most important labours. The province, named after the Galatæ, or Gauls, who had poured over Greece and Asia Minor in the third century B. 100, as they had done over Italy in the fourth, and to whom it had been assigned by Attalus I., King of Pergamus, had been conquered by the Romans under Manlius (the name appearing a second time in connection with a victory over the Gallic races) in B.C. 189; and under Augustus it had been constituted as a Roman province. The inhabitants spoke a Keltic dialect, like that which the people of the same race spoke in the fourth century after Christ, on the banks of the Moselle, and retained all the distinctive quickness of emotion and liability to sudden change which characterised the Keltic temperament. They had adopted the religion of the Phrygians, who had previously inhabited the region, and that religion consisted mainly in a wild orgiastic worship of the great Earth-goddess Cybele, in whose temples were found the Eunuch-priests, who thus consecrated themselves to her service. (See Note on Galatians 5:12.) The chief seat of this worship was at Pessinus. The incidental reference to this journey in Galatians 4:13-15, enables us to fill up St. Luke’s outline. St. Paul seems to have been detained in Galatia by severe illness, probably by one of the attacks of acute pain in the nerves of the eye in which many writers have seen an explanation of the mysterious “thorn in the flesh” of 2Corinthians 12:7, which led to his giving a longer time to his missionary work there than he had at first intended. In this illness the Galatians had shown themselves singularly devoted to him. They had received him “as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.” They had not shrunk from what would seem to have been repulsive in the malady from which he suffered; they would have “plucked out their own eyes,” had it been possible, and given them to replace those which were to him the cause of so much suffering. Then they thought it their highest “blessedness” to have had such a one among them. If the memory of that reception made his sorrow all the more bitter when, in after years, they fell away from their first love, it must at the time have been among the most cheering seasons of the Apostle’s life.

Were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia.—It is obviously implied in this that their own plans would have led them to turn their steps to the region from which they were thus turned. The pro-consular province of Asia, with its teeming cities, like Ephesus, Smyrna, and Sardis, its large Jewish population, its great centres of idolatrous worship, was naturally attractive to one who was seeking with all his energy a rapid expansion of the kingdom of his Lord. But in ways which we are not told, by inner promptings, or by visions of the night, or by the inspired utterances of those among their converts who had received the gift of prophecy, as afterwards in Acts 21:4, they were led on, step by step, towards the north-western coast, not seeing their way clearly as yet to the next stage of their labours. Their route through the “Galatian region” (the phrase, perhaps, indicates a wider range of country than the Roman province of that name) must have taken them through Pessinus, the great centre of the worship of Cybele, and Ancyra, famous for its goat’s-hair manufactures, and for the great historical marble tablets which Augustus had erected there.

Acts 16:6-8. Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia — Greek, διελθοντες δε την Φρυγιαν, και την Γαλατικην χωραν, having passed through Phrygia and the Galatian country, and spoken there what was sufficient, and delivered to the churches in those parts the decrees above mentioned, in order to their establishment in the true faith of the gospel; and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost (probably by an inward dictate) to preach the word in Asia — That is, in the proconsular Asia: for, “as all the places mentioned in the former verses lay in Asia Minor, it is evident that the word Asia must be thus understood. The reason for this prohibition seems to have been, that the time for preaching in that province was not yet come. But it is certain that flourishing churches were afterward planted there, particularly at Colosse, Laodicea, Sardis, Thyatira, and Philadelphia. It seems therefore to have been the determination of Providence, respecting Paul and his companions, that, instead of going through this region now, by such a leisurely progress as that in which they proceeded in their former journey, through Pamphylia, Pisidia, Lycaonia, &c., they should hasten to Europe directly, and preach the gospel first in Philippi, which was a Roman colony, and then in the neighbouring parts; while, in the mean time, the Asian provinces, now passed over, might hear some report of it from their neighbours and so be prepared to receive, with greater advantage, the labours of the apostles, when they should return to them, as Paul afterward did, chap. Acts 18:23, &c. By this means the spread of the gospel would, in any given time, be wider than (other circumstances being equal) it would have been, had they taken all the interjacent places in their way.” — Doddridge. After they were come into Mysia — Which was the most western province of the Lesser Asia, and lay on the coast of the Ægean sea; they assayed to go northward into Bithynia — A country bounded on the west by a part of the Propontis and the Thracian Bosphorus, and on the north by the Euxine sea. Probably their intention was to visit the flourishing cities of Nice, Nicomedia, and Chalcedon, and so pass from thence into Europe. But the Spirit suffered them not — Forbidding them as before. Many manuscripts and versions of undoubted authority read here, The Spirit of Jesus. And so passing by the Lesser Mysia — Which separated Bithynia from the country of Troas; they came to the city Troas — A noted seaport, where travellers from the upper coasts of Asia commonly took ship to pass into Europe. Here Paul and his assistants were joined by Luke, (Acts 16:10,) the writer of this history, and a native of Antioch, as is generally believed, who, to the profession of a physician, had joined that of a Christian minister, or evangelist.

16:6-15 The removals of ministers, and the dispensing the means of grace by them, are in particular under Divine conduct and direction. We must follow Providence: and whatever we seek to do, if that suffer us not, we ought to submit and believe to be for the best. People greatly need help for their souls, it is their duty to look out for it, and to invite those among them who can help them. And God's calls must be complied with readily. A solemn assembly the worshippers of God must have, if possible, upon the sabbath day. If we have not synagogues, we must be thankful for more private places, and resort to them; not forsaking the assembling together, as our opportunities are. Among the hearers of Paul was a woman, named Lydia. She had an honest calling, which the historian notices to her praise. Yet though she had a calling to mind, she found time to improve advantages for her soul. It will not excuse us from religious duties, to say, We have a trade to mind; for have not we also a God to serve, and souls to look after? Religion does not call us from our business in the world, but directs us in it. Pride, prejudice, and sin shut out the truths of God, till his grace makes way for them into the understanding and affections; and the Lord alone can open the heart to receive and believe his word. We must believe in Jesus Christ; there is no coming to God as a Father, but by the Son as Mediator.Throughout Phrygia - This was the largest province of Asia Minor. It had Bithynia north; Pisidia and Lycia south; Galatia and Cappadocia east; and Lydia and Mysia west.

And the region of Galatia - This province was directly east of Phrygia. The region was formerly conquered by the Gauls. They settled in it, and called it, after their own name, Galatia. The Gauls invaded the country at different times, and no less than three tribes or bodies of Gauls had possession of it. Many Jews were also settled there. It was from this cause that so many parties could be formed there, and that so much controversy would arise between the Jewish and Gentile converts. See the Epistle to the Galatians.

And were forbidden - Probably by a direct revelation. The reason of this was, doubtless, that it was the intention of God to extend the gospel further into the regions of Greece than would have been done if they had remained in Asia Minor. This prohibition was the means of the first introduction of the gospel into Europe.

In Asia - See the notes on Acts 2:9. This was doubtless the region of proconsular Asia. It was also called Ionia. Of this region Ephesus was the capital; and here were situated also the cities of Smyrna, Thyatira, Philadelphia, etc., within which the seven churches mentioned in Revelation 1-3 were established. Cicero speaks of proconsular Asia as containing the provinces of Phrygia, Mysia, Carla, and Lydia. In all this region the gospel was afterward preached with great success. But now a more important and a wider field was opened before Paul and Barnabas in the extensive country of Macedonia.

Ac 16:6-12. They Break New Ground in Phrygia and Galatia—Their Course in That Direction Being Mysteriously Hedged Up, They Travel Westward to Troas, Where They Are Divinely Directed to Macedonia—The Historian Himself Here Joining the Missionary Party, They Embark for Neapolis, and Reach Philippi.

6-8. Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia—proceeding in a northwesterly direction. At this time must have been formed "the churches of Galatia" (Ga 1:2; 1Co 16:1); founded, as we learn from the Epistle to the Galatians (particularly Ga 4:19), by the apostle Paul, and which were already in existence when he was on his third missionary journey, as we learn from Ac 18:23, where it appears that he was no less successful in Phrygia. Why these proceedings, so interesting as we should suppose, are not here detailed, it is not easy to say; for the various reasons suggested are not very satisfactory: for example, that the historian had not joined the party [Alford]; that he was in haste to bring the apostle to Europe [Olshausen]; that the main stream of the Church's development was from Jerusalem to Rome, and the apostle's labors in Phrygia and Galatia lay quite out of the line of that direction [Baumgarten].

and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost—speaking by some prophet, see on [2033]Ac 11:27.

to preach the word in Asia—not the great Asiatic continent, nor even the rich peninsula now called Asia Minor, but only so much of its western coast as constituted the Roman province of Asia.

Phrygia and

Galatia were parts of Asia Minor. They

were forbidden of the Holy Ghost by some revelation, though the manner is not known,

to preach the word in Asia, for that time; though afterwards Paul preached there about two years together, Acts 19:10. Thus God (the great Householder) orders the candle to be removed from one room unto another; sends, or takes away, the light of the gospel, to whom, and as often, as he pleaseth. Our calling, as well as our election, is free; and we may say with our Saviour, Matthew 11:26, Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.

Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia,.... See Gill on Acts 2:10 To which may be added, that this country had its name either from the river Phryx, as Pliny (w) observes, or from the word Phrygios, which signifies "dry"; this being a very dry and sandy country: it was famous for marble stone; hence we read (x) of Phrygian Stone or marble, of which pillars and statues were made: according to Josephus (y), the original of the Phrygians was Togarmah the son of Gomer, and grandson of Japheth, Genesis 10:3, whom he calls Thygrammes, and his people from him, Thygrammeans, and who, adds he, as it seems by the Greeks, are called Phrygians. Herodotus (z) reports, that the Phrygians (as the Macedonians say) were called Briges or Brygians, so long as they were Europeans, and dwelt with the Macedonians: but when they went into Asia, together with the country, they changed their names, into Phrygians: of one Philip a Phrygian, whom Antiochus left governor at Jerusalem, mention is made in:

"And he left governors to vex the nation: at Jerusalem, Philip, for his country a Phrygian, and for manners more barbarous than he that set him there;'' (2 Maccabees 5:22)

here dwelt Jews, as appears from Acts 2:10 and here the apostle preached and made converts.

And the region of Galatia: in Asia Minor: it had Cappadocia on the east, Bithynia on the west, Pamphylia on the south, and the Euxine sea on the north. The inhabitants of this country were originally Gauls, who under Brennus their captain, came out of some parts of France, and invaded Italy, and came to Rome, and took it all but the capitol; from whence being sallied out upon by the Romans at an unawares, they were obliged to retire; and from thence they sailed into Greece, and went into Asia, into this part of it where they settled, which was first called after them Gallo Graecia, and in process of time Galatia; though some say the Grecians called them Galatians from Gala, which signifies "milk", because of their milky colour: of the Galatians, mention is made in,

"And he told them of the battle that they had in Babylon with the Galatians, how they came but eight thousand in all to the business, with four thousand Macedonians, and that the Macedonians being perplexed, the eight thousand destroyed an hundred and twenty thousand because of the help that they had from heaven, and so received a great booty.'' (2 Maccabees 8:20)

here the Gospel was preached, and many believed; for we afterwards read of disciples both in this country and in Phrygia, Acts 18:23 and here were churches formed, and to whom the apostles preached, and delivered the decrees of the apostles and elders.

And were forbidden of the Holy Ghost; not by an articulate voice, but by a secret and powerful impulse upon their minds;

to preach the word in Asia: that is, in that country which was properly called Asia, or pro-consular Asia, otherwise Phrygia, and Galatia, were provinces in Asia Minor. Beza's most ancient copy, and the Vulgate Latin and Syriac versions read, "the word of God": the reasons why it was prohibited to be preached here, at this time, cannot be said, and must be referred to the sovereign will of God; it seems, that at this instant, there were no chosen ones to be called by grace, and there was work for the apostle and his companions to do elsewhere, namely, in Macedonia.

(w) Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 29. (x) Pausanias, l. 1. sive Attica, p. 32. (y) Antiqu. l. 1. c. 6. sect. 1.((z) Polymnia, c. 73. Vid. Plin. l. 5. c. 32.

{4} Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were {d} forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,

(4) God appoints certain and determinate times to open and set forth his truth, so that both the election and the calling may proceed of grace.

(d) He does not show why they were forbidden, but only that they were forbidden, teaching us to obey and not to enquire.

Acts 16:6-7. According to the reading διῆλθον and, Acts 16:7, ἐλθόντες δέ (see the critical remarks): Now they went through Phrygia and Galatia, after they had been withheld by the Holy Spirit from preaching in Asia; but having come toward Mysia, they attempted, etc. Observe (1) that this hindrance of the Spirit to their preaching in Asia induced them, instead of going to Asia, to take their route through Phrygia and Galatia, and therefore the founding of the Galatian churches is correctly referred to this period;[48] indeed, the founding of these may have been the immediate object aimed at in that hindrance. The fact that Luke so silently passes over the working in Phrygia and Galatia, is in keeping with the unequal character of the information given by him generally—an inequality easily explained from the diversity of his documents and intelligence otherwise acquired—so that it appears arbitrary to impute to him a special set purpose (Olshausen: he was hastening with his narrative to the European scene of action; Baumgarten: because the main stream of development proceeded from Jerusalem to Rome, and the working in question lay out of the line of this direction, comp. also Zeller, p. 383; and quite erroneously Schneckenburger: because there were no Jews to be found in those regions, and therefore Luke could not have illustrated in that case how Paul turned first to the Jews). Further, (2) Asia cannot be the quarter of the world in contrast to Europe, but only the western coast of Asia Minor, as in Acts 2:9, Acts 6:9. To that region his journey from Lycaonia (Derbe and Lystra, Acts 16:1) was directed; but by the hindrance of the Spirit it was turned elsewhere, namely, to Phrygia and Galatia (the latter taken in the usual narrower sense, not according to the extent of the Roman province at that time, as Böttger, Thiersch, and others suppose; comp. on Gal. Introd. § 1).

The hindering of the Spirit, taken by Zeller in the sense of the apostle’s own inward tact, is in Acts 16:6-7 to be regarded as an influence of the Holy Spirit (that is, of the objective Divine Spirit, not of “the holy spirit of prudence, which judged the circumstances correctly,” de Wette) on their souls, which internal indication, they were conscious, was that of the Spirit.

κατὰ τ. Μυσίαν] not: at (see Acts 16:8), but toward Mysia, Mysia-wards, in the direction of the border of that land. They wished from this to go northeastward to Bithynia; for in Mysia (which, along with Lydia and Caria, belonged to Asia) they were forbidden to preach.

τὸ πνεῦμα Ἰησοῦ] i.e. the ἅγιον πνεῦμα, Acts 16:6; see on Romans 8:9.

[48] Whether he also planted churches in Phrygia, is unknown to us. The founding of the church in Colossae and Laodicea took place by means of others, Colossians 2:1.


According to the Received text (διελθόντεςἐλθόντες), the rendering must be: having journeyed through Phrygia and Galatia, they endeavoured, after they had been withheld by the Holy Spirit from preaching in Asia, on coming toward Mysia, to journey to Bithynia, etc. Comp. Wieseler, p. 31; Baumgarten, p. 489; and see regarding the asyndetic participles, which “mutua temporis vel causae ratione inter se referuntur,” Kühner, ad Xen. Anab. i. 1. 7; Dissen, ad Dem. de cor. p. 249; Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 255 (E. T. 297).

Acts 16:6. διελθόντες δὲ τὴν Φ. καὶ τὴν Γ. χώραν, see critical notes, and also additional note at the end of chap. 18. If we follow R.V. text and omit the second τὴν, and regard both Φ. and Γ. as adjectives with Ramsay and Lightfoot (so Weiss and Wendt, cf. adjective Πισιδίαν, Acts 13:14; but see also Acts 18:23), under the vinculum of the one article we have one district, “the Phrygo-Galatic country,” i.e., ethnically Phrygian, politically Galatian; see also Turner, “Chronology of the N.T.,” Hastings’ B.D., i., 422, and “The Churches of Galatia,” Dr. Gifford, Expositor, July, 1894. But Zahn, Einleitung, i., 134, objects that if Ramsay sees in Acts 16:6 a recapitulation of the journey, and action in Acts 16:4-5, and includes under the term Phrygo-Galatia the places visited in the first missionary journey, we must include under the term not only Iconium and Antioch, but also Derbe and Lystra. But the two latter, according to Acts 14:6, are not Phrygian at all, but Lycaonian. Ramsay, however, sufficiently answers this objection by the distinction which he draws between the phrase before us in Acts 16:6 and the phrase used in Acts 18:23 : τὴν Γαλατικὴν χώραν καὶ Φρυγίαν. In the verse before us reference is made to the country traversed by Paul after he left Lystra, and so we have quite correctly the territory about Iconium and Antioch described as Phrygo-Galatic; but in Acts 18:23 Lystra and Derbe are also included, and therefore we might expect “Lycaono-Galatic and Phrygo-Galatic,” but to avoid this complicated phraseology the writer uses the simple phrase: “the Galatic country,” while Phrygia denotes either Phrygia Galatica or Phrygia Magna, or both, and see Ramsay, Church in the Roman Empire, pp. 77 and 91–93, and Expositor, August, 1898. Dr. Gifford, in his valuable contribution to the controversy between Prof. Ramsay and Dr. Chase, Expositor, July 1894, while rejecting the North-Galatian theory, would not limit the phrase “the Phrygian and Galatian region” to the country about Iconium and Antioch with Ramsay, but advocates an extension of its meaning to the borderlands of Phrygia and Galatia northward of Antioch.—κωλυθέντες: a favourite word in St. Luke, both in Gospel and Acts, six times in each, cf. Acts 8:36, Acts 10:47. How the hindrance was effected we are not told, whether by inward monitions, or by prophetic intimations, or by some circumstances which were regarded as providential warnings: “wherefore they were forbidden he does not say, but that they were forbidden he does say—teaching us to obey and not ask questions,” Chrys., Hom., xxxiv. On the construction of κωλυθ. with διῆλθον (see critical notes) cf. Ramsay, Church in the Roman Empire, p. 89; St. Paul, p. 211; Expositor (Epilogue), April, 1894, and Gifford, u. s., pp. 11 and 19. Both writers point out that the South Galatian theory need not depend upon this construction, whether we render it according to A.V. or R.V., see further Askwith, Epistle to the Galatians, p. 46, 1899.

6. Now when they had gone throughout] The oldest MSS. merely say and they went through.

Phrygia and the region of Galatia] Scarcely the direction, so far as population was concerned, which would have been chosen by them of their own accord, but the inner admonition of the Holy Ghost kept them from entering Proconsular Asia. The news of the events at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost were known to some in Phrygia already (Acts 2:10), but of Galatia the history has yet made no mention, though we know from St Paul’s Epistle to that church that he afterwards had the warmest interest in and greatest anxiety concerning the Christians there, among whom Judaizers wrought like mischief with that done in Antioch. From some expressions of St Paul (Galatians 4:19) it seems likely that it was from his own preaching at this time that churches in Galatia were founded.

and were forbidden] Better, having been forbidden. As they had been forbidden the one route, they went by the other. Probably St Luke says little about the events in this part of the journey, for his language below (Acts 16:10) seems to shew that he only joined St Paul at Troas.

in Asia] See note on Acts 2:9.

Acts 16:6. Διελθόντες) when they had travelled through, the Spirit not forbidding them: for the Galatian region was not a part of the Asia that is here named. Phrygia was a part of Asia, and in it already they had spoken all that was necessary.—κωλυθέντες, having been forbidden) by some internal dictation (suggestion). Often the reluctance of the mind, the cause of which the ungodly cannot see, is not to be despised. Again, as to the impulse to any course of action, see ch. Acts 18:5, Acts 17:16.—λαλῆσαι, to speak) Not yet was it the ripe time: they were now appointed to make Macedonia their destination: other preachers might come to the people of Asia; nay, even Lydia was one belonging to Asia, Acts 16:14. And afterwards it was done most abundantly: ch. Acts 19:10.

Verse 6. - And they went for now when they had gone, A.V. and T.R.; through the region of Phrygia and Galatia for throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, A.V. and T.R.; having been for and were, A.V.; speak for preach, A.V. The region of Phrygia and Galatia. But Phrygia is always a noun substantive, and cannot be here taken as an adjective belonging to χώρα: and we have in Acts 18:23 exactly the same collation as that of the A.V. here, only in an inverted order: Τὴν Γαλατικὴν χώραν καὶ Φρυγίας. Even if the τὴν is properly omitted, as in the R.T., before Γαλατικὴν, the passage must equally be construed as in the A.V. The Galatians were Celts, the descendants of those Gauls who invaded Asia in the third century B.C. This passage seems to show conclusively that Derbe and Lystra and Iconium were not comprehended by St. Paul under Galatia, and were not the Churches to whom the Epistle to the Galatians was addressed; and forcibly suggest that the Galatian Churches were founded by St. Paul in the course of the visit here so briefly mentioned by St. Luke. Asia is here used in its restricted sense of that district on the western coast of Asia Minor, of which Ephesus was the capital. It is in this sense that it is used also in Acts 2:9; Acts 6:9; Acts 19:10, etc.; Revelation 1:11. St. Paul apparently wished to go to Ephesus. But the time was not yet come. It was the purpose of the Holy Ghost that the Galatian Churches should be founded first, and then the Churches of Macedonia and Achaia. The apostles were sent, did not go anywhere of their own accord (comp. Matthew 10:5, 6). Acts 16:6Asia

See on Acts 2:9.

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