Acts 21:21
And they are informed of you, that you teach all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) And they are informed of thee . . .—This, it is clear, was the current version of St. Paul’s teaching. How far was it a true representation of its tendencies? As a personal accusation it was, of course, easy to refute it. His rule of adaptation led him to be to the Jews as a Jew (1Corinthians 9:20). He taught that every man, circumcised or uncircumcised, should accept his position with its attendant obligations (1Corinthians 7:18-20). He had himself taken the Nazarite vow (Acts 18:18), and had circumcised Timotheus (Acts 16:3). It was probably false that he had ever taught that Jews “ought not to circumcise their children.” But fanaticism is sometimes clear-sighted in its bitterness, and the Judaisers felt that when it was proclaimed that “circumcision was nothing,” in its bearing on man’s relations to God (1Corinthians 7:19; Galatians 5:6; Galatians 6:15), it ceased to have a raison d’être, and sank to the level of a mere badge of the national exclusiveness, which, in its turn, was assailed by St. Paul’s teaching that all middle walls of partition were broken down (Ephesians 2:14), and that Jews and Gentiles were alike one in Christ. If a Jew had asked, Why then should I circumcise my child? it would not have been easy to return a satisfying answer. If it were said, “To avoid giving offence,” that was clearly only temporary and local in its application, and the practice would die out as people ceased to be offended. If it were urged that it was a divine command, there was the reply that, as a command, it had been virtually though not formally repealed when the promises and privileges connected with it were withdrawn. It was the seal of a covenant (Romans 4:11), and could hardly be looked upon as binding when the covenant itself had been superseded. Few Christians would now hold that a converted Jew was still bound to circumcise, as well as baptise, his children. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews did but push St. Paul’s teaching to its legitimate conclusions when he said that the “new covenant had made the first old,” and that “that which is decaying and waxing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13).

That thou teachest all the Jews . . . to forsake Moses.—Literally, that thou teachest apostasy from Moses, the term used, with all its burden of evil import, adding weight to the charge.

Neither to walk after the customs.—On the general import of this phrase, as including the “traditions of the elders,” as well as the precepts of the Law, see Notes on Acts 6:14; Acts 15:1.

21:19-26 Paul ascribed all his success to God, and to God they gave the praise. God had honoured him more than any of the apostles, yet they did not envy him; but on the contrary, glorified the Lord. They could not do more to encourage Paul to go on cheerfully in his work. James and the elders of the church at Jerusalem, asked Paul to gratify the believing Jews, by some compliance with the ceremonial law. They thought it was prudent in him to conform thus far. It was great weakness to be so fond of the shadows, when the substance was come. The religion Paul preached, tended not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it. He preached Christ, the end of the law for righteousness, and repentance and faith, in which we are to make great use of the law. The weakness and evil of the human heart strongly appear, when we consider how many, even of the disciples of Christ, had not due regard to the most eminent minister that even lived. Not the excellence of his character, nor the success with which God blessed his labours, could gain their esteem and affection, seeing that he did not render the same respect as themselves to mere ceremonial observances. How watchful should we be against prejudices! The apostles were not free from blame in all they did; and it would be hard to defend Paul from the charge of giving way too much in this matter. It is vain to attempt to court the favour of zealots, or bigots to a party. This compliance of Paul did not answer, for the very thing by which he hoped to pacify the Jews, provoked them, and brought him into trouble. But the all-wise God overruled both their advice and Paul's compliance with it, to serve a better purpose than was intended. It was in vain to think of pleasing men who would be pleased with nothing but the rooting out of Christianity. Integrity and uprightness will be more likely to preserve us than insincere compliances. And it should warn us not to press men to doing what is contrary to their own judgment to oblige us.And they are informed of thee - Reports respecting the conduct of Paul would be likely to be in circulation among all at Jerusalem. His remarkable conversion, his distinguished zeal, his success among the Gentiles, would make his conduct a subject of special interest. Evil-minded men among the Jews, who came up to Jerusalem from different places where he had been, would be likely to represent him as the decided enemy of the laws of Moses, and these reports would be likely to reach the ears of the Jewish converts. The reports, as they gained ground, would be greatly magnified, until suspicion might be excited among the Christians at Jerusalem that he was, as he was reputed to be, the settled foe of the Jewish rites and customs.

That thou teachest all the Jews ... - From all the evidence which we have of his conduct, this report was incorrect and slanderous. The truth appears to have been, that he did not enjoin the observance of those laws on the Gentile converts; that the effect of his ministry on them was to lead them to suppose that their observance was not necessary - contrary to the doctrines of the Judaizing teachers (see Acts 15); and that he argued with the Jews themselves, where it could be done, against the obligation of those laws and customs since the Messiah had come. The Jews depended on their observance for justification and salvation. This Paul strenuously opposed; and this view he defended at length in the Epistles which he wrote. See the Epistles to the Romans, the Galatians, and the Hebrews. Yet these facts might be easily misunderstood and perverted, so as to give rise to the slanderous report that he was the enemy of Moses and the Law.

Which are among the Gentiles - Who live in pagan countries. The Jews were extensively scattered and settled in all the large towns and cities of the Roman empire.

To forsake Moses - The Law and the authority of Moses. That is, to regard his laws as no longer binding.

To walk after the customs - To observe the institutions of the Mosaic ritual. See the notes on Acts 6:14. The word "customs" denotes "the rites of the Mosaic economy the offering of sacrifices, incense, the oblations, anointings, festivals, etc., which the Law of Moses prescribed."

21. they are informed … that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles—those residing in heathen countries.

to forsake Moses, &c.—This calumny of the unbelieving Jews would find easy credence among the Christian zealots for Judaism.

Informed of thee; instructed or catechised concerning thee; the zealots had made it their business to instil such aspersions and odious reflections against Paul, as if their accusations had been the fundamental truths of their religion.

Moses; the ceremonial law, given by his ministry.

To walk, to live, to act in their course of life,

after the customs of their fathers, or the rituals of Moses. And they are informed of thee,.... By persons that came from the several parts of the Gentile world, where the apostle had been preaching; and by letters which came from the Jews in those parts, who were no friends to the apostle's ministry:

that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles, to forsake Moses: or "apostatize from Moses"; that is, the law of Moses; that he taught the Gentiles not to regard the rituals of the law of Moses gave them no uneasiness; but that he should teach the Jews that were scattered among the Gentiles, and as many of them that believed in Christ, to disregard and drop the observance of them, who had been always brought up in them, this they could not bear; and that the apostle so taught, they had credible information: particularly,

saying, that they ought not to circumcise their children; though this does not appear; it is true the apostle taught that circumcision was abolished, and that it was nothing; yea, that to submit to it as necessary to salvation, was hurtful and pernicious; but as a thing indifferent, he allowed of it among weak brethren; and in condescension to their weakness, did administer it himself; in which he became a Jew to the Jew, that he might gain some:

neither to walk after the customs; either of the law of Moses, meaning other rites there enjoined, besides circumcision; or of their fathers, and their country, the traditions of the elders, which as yet they had not got clear of; the disuse of old customs is not easily brought about, or it is not easy to bring persons off of them.

And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 21:21. κατηχήθησαν: the word seems to imply definite instruction, not merely audierunt, Vulgate. Hort refers to the term as implying here assiduous talking and lecturing, Judaistic Christianity, p. 107.—ἀποστασίαν, cf. 1Ma 2:15 ( ἀπόστασιν) when the officers of Antiochus Epiphanes, in the time of Mattathias, tried to compel the people of Modin to forsake the law and to sacrifice upon the idol altar.—μὴ περιτέμνειν: these words and those which follow were an entire perversion of St. Paul’s teaching, just as his enemies gave a perverted view of the Apostle’s supposed intrusion with Trophimus into the temple, Acts 21:29. The exemption from the Mosaic law was confined to Jewish converts, Acts 16:3, 1 Corinthians 7:18.—τοῖς ἔθεσι, cf. Acts 6:14, Acts 15:1.—περιπατεῖν: only here in Luke, but often in the Epistles in this sense, cf. Mark 7:5.21. and they are informed of thee] More clearly and in accordance with modern English, the Rev. Ver.they have been informed concerning thee.” The verb is a very significant one, from which comes our English “catechize.” It implies, therefore, that the process of educating public opinion in Jerusalem about St Paul had been a diligent business. They had taught the lesson persistently till their hearers were fully trained in it. We can hence understand the great hostility which the Apostle experienced, and his strong language about these Judaizers. They must have had their partizans at work in preparation for his visit, and have poisoned men’s minds against him.

that thou teachest … to forsake Moses] The calumniators made use of the Apostle’s earnest words to Gentile converts, that they should not accept Judaism first as a door to Christianity, to bring a charge that, to Jews also, he spake of the law as no longer to be regarded. We can see from what we know of his words and actions how false this was, but at such a time and amid such a populace the charge would rouse great animosity, and have no chance of being refuted.

saying that they ought not to circumcise their children] More simply (with Rev. Ver.), “telling them not to,” &c. This had so long been the mark of the Jew, and the expression “uncircumcised” meant something so abhorrent to his mind, that we cannot wonder that this is put in the forefront of the charge. For the sense of contempt and abomination in the name, cf. 1 Samuel 17:26; Ezekiel 28:10; Ezekiel 32:29-30.

neither to walk after the customs] The customs being the ceremonial law of the Jews. There is quite a Jewish sound in the frequent Old Testament phrase “to walk after.”Acts 21:21. Κατηχήθησαν, they have been informed, they have heard it said) not merely by rumour, but owing to exaggerated statements, exceeding the real state of the case, they are persuaded of this.—τοῖς ἔθεσι, the customs) of the Jews.Verse 21. - Have been for are, A.V.; concerning for of, A.V.; telling them not for saying that they ought not, A.V. Have been informed (κατηχήθησαν); see Acts 18:25; Luke 1:4; Romans 2:18, etc. The verb properly means to instruct by word of mouth, whence our "catechism." The customs (τοῖς ἔθεσι); see Acts 6:14, both for the phrase and the sentiment, and Acts 15:1, note; Acts 26:3; 28:17. Ἔθος is a favorite word of St. Luke's, occurring ten times in his Gospel and in the Acts, and only twice in the New Testament elsewhere (John 19:40; Hebrews 10:25; see Hobart, on Luke 2:27). They are informed (κατηχήθησαν)

More than informed. They had been carefully instructed, probably by the Judaizing teachers. See on instructed, Luke 1:4.

To forsake Moses (ἀποστασίαν ἀπὸ Μωσέως)

Lit., apostasy from Moses. Compare 2 Thessalonians 2:3.

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