Acts 21:9
And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.
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(9) The same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.—Both elements of the description are full of interest as throwing light on the life of the Apostolic Church. (1) The four daughters were “virgins.” The word then, as afterwards, probably indicated, not merely the bare fact that they were as yet unmarried, but that they had devoted themselves, if not by irrevocable vows, yet by a steadfast purpose, to that form of service. In the organisation of women’s work in the Church they formed apparently a distinct class, the complement of that of the widows of 1Timothy 5:10. St. Paul had distinctly sanctioned such a life, as presenting a higher standard of excellence than the duties of domestic life (1Corinthians 7:8), and on grounds which, in their general character, went beyond the “present distress” of a time of persecution (1Corinthians 7:26; 1Corinthians 7:34). It was, indeed, a matter on which he had no commandment from the Lord (1Corinthians 7:25), and in which he was therefore open to the teachings of experience, and these seem to have modified his judgment at a later date, and led him to the conclusion that it was better that the younger “widows” should marry (1Timothy 5:14), and that they should only be received into the list of those who were maintained by the Church in return for their services as “widows,” at a more advanced age (1Timothy 5:9). The order of “virgin,” however, continued to exist, and the term Virgo, sometimes with Ancilla Domini (the handmaid of the Lord; comp. Romans 16:1) added to it, is found in the inscriptions from the catacombs now in the Museums of the Collegio Romano and the Lateran. So Pliny, in his letter to Trajan (Ep. 10 § 6), speaks of the women who were then called ministræ among the Christians, the latter term being probably used as the equivalent for “deaconesses.” (2) These virgins “prophesied.” The word comprised much more than mere prediction of the future, and included all words that came into the mind of the speaker as an inspiration, and to the hearers as a message from God. (Comp. Notes on Acts 2:17; Acts 19:6; 1Corinthians 14:24-25.) In other words, they preached. We ask when, and where? Did they prophesy in the assemblies of the Church? It is true that St. Paul had forbidden this at Corinth (1Corinthians 14:34), and forbade it afterwards at Ephesus (1Timothy 2:12); but the very prohibition proves that the practice was common (see also 1Corinthians 11:5), and it does not follow that St. Paul’s rules of discipline as yet obtained in all the churches. It is perfectly possible, however, that they may have confined their ministrations to those of their own sex, and, accompanying their father in his missionary journeys, have gained access to women, both among Jews and Gentiles, and brought them to the knowledge of the Truth. It is obvious that the services of women, acting as deaconesses, would be needed as a matter of decorum in the baptism of female converts.



Acts 21:1 - Acts 21:15

Paul’s heroic persistency in disregarding the warnings of ‘bonds and afflictions’ which were pealed into his ears in every city, is the main point of interest in this section. But the vivid narrative abounds with details which fill it with life and colour. We may gather it all round three points-the voyage, Tyre, and Caesarea.

I. The log of the voyage, as given in Acts 21:1 - Acts 21:3, shows the leisurely way of navigation in those days and in that sea.

Obviously the coaster tied up or anchored in port at night. Running down the coast from Miletus, they stayed overnight, first at the small island of Coos, then stretched across the next day to Rhodes, and on the third struck back to the mainland at Patara, from which, according to one reading, they ran along the coast a little further east to Myra, the usual port of departure for Syria. Ramsay explains that the prevalent favourable wind for a vessel bound for Syria blows steadily in early morning, and dies down towards nightfall, so that there would have been no use in keeping at sea after sundown.

At Patara {or Myra} Paul and his party had to tranship, for their vessel was probably of small tonnage, and only fit to run along the coast. In either port they would have no difficulty in finding some merchantman to take them across to Syria. Accordingly they shifted into one bound for Tyre, and apparently ready to sail. The second part of their voyage took them right out to sea, and their course lay to the west, and then to the south of Cyprus, which Luke mentions as if to remind us of Paul’s visit there when he was beginning his missionary work. How much had passed since that day at Paphos {which they might have sighted from the deck}! He had left Paphos with Barnabas and John Mark-where were they? He had sailed away from Cyprus to carry the Gospel among Gentiles; he sails past it, accompanied by a group of these whom he had won for Christ. There he had begun his career; now the omens indicated that possibly its end was near. Many a thought would be in his mind as he looked out over the blue waters and saw the glittering roofs and groves of Paphos.

Tyre was the first port of call, and there the cargo was to be landed. The travellers had to wait till that was done, and probably another one shipped. The seven days’ stay is best understood as due to that cause; for we find that Paul re-embarked in the same ship, and went in her as far as Ptolemais, at all events, perhaps to Caesarea.

We note that no brethren are mentioned as having been met at any of the ports of call, and no evangelistic work as having been done in them. The party were simple passengers, who had to shape their movements to suit the convenience of the master of the vessel, and were only in port at night, and off again next morning early. No doubt the leisure at sea was as restorative to them as it often is to jaded workers now.

II. Tyre was a busy seaport then, and in its large population the few disciples would make but little show.

They had to be sought out before they were ‘found.’ One can feel how eagerly the travellers would search, and how thankfully they would find themselves again among congenial souls. Since Miletus they had had no Christian communion, and the sailors in such a ship as theirs would not be exactly kindred spirits. So that week in Tyre would be a blessed break in the voyage. We hear nothing of visiting the synagogue, nor of preaching to the non-Christian population, nor of instruction to the little Church.

The whole interest of the stay at Tyre is, for Luke, centred on the fact that here too the same message which had met Paul everywhere was repeated to him. It was ‘through the Spirit.’ Then was Paul flying in the face of divine prohibitions when he held on his way in spite of all that could be said? Certainly not. We have to bring common sense to bear on the interpretation of the words in Acts 21:4, and must suppose that what came from ‘the Spirit’ was the prediction of persecutions waiting Paul, and that the exhortation to avoid these by keeping clear of Jerusalem was the voice of human affection only. Such a blending of clear insight and of mistaken deductions from it is no strange experience.

No word is said as to the effect of the Tyrian Christians’ dissuasion. It had none. Luke mentions it in order to show how continuous was the repetition of the same note, and his silence as to the manner of its reception is eloquent. The parting scene at Tyre is like, and yet very unlike, that at Miletus. In both the Christians accompany Paul to the beach, in both they kneel down and pray. It would scarcely have been a Christian parting without that. In both loving farewells are said, and perhaps waved when words could no longer be heard. But at Tyre, where there were no bonds of old comradeship nor of affection to a spiritual father, there was none of the yearning, clinging love that could not bear to part, none of the hanging on Paul’s neck, none of the deep sorrow of final separation. The delicate shades of difference in two scenes so similar tell of the hand of an eye-witness. The touch that ‘all’ the Tyrian Christians went down to the beach, and took their wives and children with them, suggests that they can have been but a small community, and so confirms the hint given by the use of the word ‘found’ in Acts 21:4.

III. The vessel ran down the coast to Ptolemais where one day’s stop was made, probably to land and ship cargo, if, as is possible, the further journey to Caesarea was by sea.

But it may have been by land; the narrative is silent on that point. At Ptolemais, as at Tyre, there was a little company of disciples, the brevity of the stay with whom, contrasted with the long halt in Caesarea, rather favours the supposition that the ship’s convenience ruled the Apostle’s movements till he reached the latter place. There he found a haven of rest, and, surrounded by loving friends, no wonder that the burdened Apostle lingered there before plunging into the storm of which he had had so many warnings.

The eager haste of the earlier part of the journey, contrasted with the delay in Caesarea at the threshold of his goal, is explained by supposing that at the beginning Paul’s one wish had been to get to Jerusalem in time for the Feast, and that at Caesarea he found that, thanks to his earlier haste and his good passages, he had a margin to spare. He did not wish to get to the Holy City much before the Feast.

Two things only are told as occurring in Caesarea-the intercourse with Philip and the renewed warnings about going to Jerusalem. Apparently Philip had been in Caesarea ever since we last heard of him {Acts 8:1 - Acts 8:40}. He had brought his family there, and settled down in the headquarters of Roman government. He had been used by Christ to carry the Gospel to men outside the Covenant, and for a time it seemed as if he was to be the messenger to the Gentiles; but that mission soon ended, and the honour and toil fell to another. But neither did Philip envy Paul, nor did Paul avoid Philip. The Master has the right to settle what each slave has to do, and whether He sets him to high or low office, it matters not.

Philip might have been contemptuous and jealous of the younger man, who had been nobody when he was chosen as one of the Seven, but had so far outrun him now. But no paltry personal feeling marred the Christian intercourse of the two, and we can imagine how much each had to tell the other, with perhaps Cornelius for a third in company, during the considerably extended stay in Caesarea. No doubt Luke too made good use of the opportunity of increasing his knowledge of the first days, and probably derived much of the material for the first chapters of Acts from Philip, either then or at his subsequent longer residence in the same city.

We have heard of the prophet Agabus before {Acts 11:28}. Why he is introduced here, as if a stranger, we cannot tell, and it is useless to guess, and absurd to sniff suspicion of genuineness in the peculiarity. His prophecy is more definite than any that preceded it. That is God’s way. He makes things clearer as we go on, and warnings more emphatic as danger approaches. The source of the ‘afflictions’ was now for the first time declared, and the shape which they would take. Jews would deliver Paul to Gentiles, as they had delivered Paul’s Master.

But there the curtain falls. What would the Gentiles do with him? That remained unrevealed. Half the tragedy was shown, and then darkness covered the rest. That was more trying to nerves and courage than full disclosure to the very end would have been. Imagination had just enough to work on, and was stimulated to shape out all sorts of horrors. Similarly incomplete and testing to faith are the glimpses of the future which we get in our own lives. We see but a little way ahead, and then the road takes a sharp turn, and we fancy dreadful shapes hiding round the corner.

Paul’s courage was unmoved both by Agabus’s incomplete prophecy and by the tearful implorings of his companions and of the Caesarean Christians. His pathetic words to them are misunderstood if we take ‘break my heart’ in the modern sense of that phrase, for it really means ‘to melt away my resolution,’ and shows that Paul felt that the passionate grief of his brethren was beginning to do what no fear for himself could do-shake even his steadfast purpose. No more lovely blending of melting tenderness and iron determination has ever been put into words than that cry of his, followed by the great utterance which proclaimed his readiness to bear all things, even death itself, for ‘the name of the Lord Jesus.’ What kindled and fed that noble flame of self-devotion? The love of Jesus Christ, built on the sense that He had redeemed the soul of His servant, and had thereby bought him for His own.

If we feel that we have been ‘bought with a price,’ we too, in our small spheres, shall be filled with that ennobling passion of devoted love which will not count life dear if He calls us to give it up. Let us learn from Paul how to blend the utmost gentleness and tender responsiveness to all love with fixed determination to glorify the Name. A strong will and a loving heart make a marvellously beautiful combination, and should both abide in every Christian.

21:8-18 Paul had express warning of his troubles, that when they came, they might be no surprise or terror to him. The general notice given us, that through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God, should be of the same use to us. Their weeping began to weaken and slacken his resolution Has not our Master told us to take up our cross? It was a trouble to him, that they should so earnestly press him to do that in which he could not gratify them without wronging his conscience. When we see trouble coming, it becomes us to say, not only, The will of the Lord must be done, and there is no remedy; but, Let the will of the Lord be done; for his will is his wisdom, and he doeth all according to the counsel of it. When a trouble is come, this must allay our griefs, that the will of the Lord is done; when we see it coming, this must silence our fears, that the will of the Lord shall be done; and we ought to say, Amen, let it be done. It is honourable to be an old disciple of Jesus Christ, to have been enabled by the grace of God to continue long in a course of duty, stedfast in the faith, growing more and more experienced, to a good old age. And with these old disciples one would choose to lodge; for the multitude of their years shall teach wisdom. Many brethren at Jerusalem received Paul gladly. We think, perhaps, that if we had him among us, we should gladly receive him; but we should not, if, having his doctrine, we do not gladly receive that.Which did prophesy - See the notes on Acts 2:17; Acts 11:27. That females sometimes partook of the prophetic influence, and foretold future events, is evident from various places in the New Testament. See the notes on Acts 2:17. 9. the same man had four daughters … which did prophesy—fulfilling Joe 2:28 (see Ac 2:18). This is mentioned, it would seem, merely as a high distinction divinely conferred on so devoted a servant of the Lord Jesus, and probably indicates the high tone of religion in his family. Virgins; by their father’s and their own voluntary determination, as 1 Corinthians 7:37; neither is it said whether they continued in that state, but they were so.

Which did prophesy; not by expounding the prophecies or word of God, for no woman is suffered to teach publicly, 1 Corinthians 14:34 1 Timothy 2:12; but rather foretelling things to come, which gift God did not debar that sex from; especially it having been promised, Joel 2:28, and in part fulfilled before, in Acts 2:17; by which God would show the enlargement of his mercies, and plenty of his Spirit, reserved for the times of the gospel.

And the same man had four daughters,.... So that he was a married man, which may be observed against the Papists, who forbid marriage to ecclesiastics: and they were,

virgins: not under any vow of virginity, but they had not as yet changed their state of life, and were pure and incorrupt:

which did prophesy; not explain and interpret Scripture, or preach in public assemblies; for these were not allowed women, neither in the Jewish synagogues, nor in Christian assemblies; but they were endowed with a gift of foretelling future events, as was promised such should have in Gospel times, Joel 2:28.

And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did {c} prophesy.

(c) They had a peculiar gift of foretelling things to come.

Acts 21:9. παρθένοι: an unwedded life might enable them to wait on the Lord without distraction, and thus to be more free for the exercise of their gift of prophecy, but nothing is said of any separate order, or anything to lead us to suppose that they did not share the home life of their father, or that they had devoted themselves to God by any special vow (see however in support of this latter view Felten, Knabenbauer, Plumptre, C. and H.). St. Jerome, Epist., v., 8, cviii., 8, in relating the story of Paula mentions how she saw at Cæsarea the house of Cornelius now turned into a Christian church, and the humble abode of Philip, and the chambers of his daughters, the four virgins “which did prophesy”.—προφητεύουσαι, cf. Joel 2:28-29, Acts 2:17; Acts 19:6, 1 Corinthians 11:5; 1 Corinthians 14:24, although nothing is said of their possessing the power of prediction, or foretelling anything concerning Paul. Since women were forbidden to teach it would seem that the prophet as such was not a teacher; Bigg, Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles, p. 29. But whilst there is no reason to suppose that they prophesied in the church, although even Felten supposes that in Churches not founded by Paul different rules might have prevailed, they would be able to speak and to teach in private or at home especially amongst the women both Jews and Gentiles, to whom in the East men would have had no access (Luckock, Footprints of the Apostles as traced by St. Luke, ii., p. 214). This verse is regarded by Hilgenfeld as an addition made by the “author to Theophilus” (so Renan). Spitta however thinks that something ought to have been said as to the nature of the prophecies uttered by the four daughters, but that instead of this we have the notice of Agabus in Acts 21:10. He therefore believes that the “We” section was interrupted at Acts 21:10, and that the verses following are interpolated from his inferior source B. The reference to weeping in Acts 21:13 is much more natural if we presuppose the presence of women, so he therefore reads “they prophesied with tears over the fate of Paul” (p. 339); so somewhat similarly Jüngst (p. 177).

9. And the same man … prophesy] Rev. Ver.Now this man had, &c.” The family of the Evangelist were walking in their father’s steps. These daughters, instead of resting at home, took upon them the hard duty of publishing the message of the Gospel. The English word “prophesy” has come to have, since about the beginning of the seventeenth century, only the one sense of “to predict what is yet to come.” In the time of Queen Elizabeth “prophesyings” meant “preachings,” and Jeremy Taylor’s famous work on the “Liberty of Prophesying,” was written to uphold the freedom of preaching. These women were, in their degree, Evangelists also.

Acts 21:9. Προφητεύουσαι, who prophesied) On the part of these women, however, the prediction and representation of the imprisonment (bonds) of Paul would not have been so becoming, as on the part of Agabus. Philip was an Evangelist: his daughters prophesied. A prophet is greater than an Evangelist: Ephesians 4:11.

Verse 9. - Now this man for and the same man, A.V. Virgins. This certainly conveys the impression that they had dedicated their lives to the service of God (1 Corinthians 7:34-38). Which did prophesy. The question arises - Did they exercise their gift of prophecy in the Church or in private? The passage 1 Corinthians 11:5 seems to indicate that in the Church of Corinth women did pray and prophesy in the congregation, while, on the other hand, 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35 seems peremptorily to forbid women to speak or teach in Church, as does 1 Timothy 2:11, 12. How, then, is this apparent contradiction to be reconciled? It must be either by supposing

(1) that the gift of prophecy spoken of here and in 1 Corinthians 11:5 was exercised in private only; or

(2) that the prohibition did not apply to the extraordinary operation of the Holy Spirit speaking by prophet or prophetesses as the case might be. The latter seems the most probable (see Acts 13:1, note). On the office of prophets in the early Church, see Acts 11:27; Acts 13:1; Acts 15:32; Acts 19:6; Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28, 29; 1 Corinthians 13:2, 8; 1 Corinthians 14:6, 29, etc.; Ephesians 3:5; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:20 (see Alford, on Acts 11:27). As regards these daughters of Philip, there are conflicting statements in early Church writers. Eusebius ('Eccl. Hist.,' 3:30) quotes Clement of Alexandria as saying that both Peter and Philip among the apostles were married and had children, and that Philip moreover gave his daughters in marriage to husbands. But in the next chapter

(3) he quotes Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus at the end of the second century, as saying that Philip the apostle and his two daughters, who had grown old in their virginity, were buried at Hierapolis; and that another daughter of his, "who had her conversation in the Holy Spirit," was buried at Ephesus. Eusebius himself thinks that these daughters of Philip the evangelist were meant. If they were, it does not necessarily follow that those who, according to Clemens Alexandrinus, were married were of the four mentioned here. They might be sisters. Polycrates seems to speak of three sisters who lived a religious life (in the technical sense); the fourth may have died young. But it is quite possible that Clemens may really be speaking of Philip the apostle, and Polycrates also; the more so as Philip the apostle, according to the tradition recorded by Nicephorns, suffered martyrdom at Hierapolis. However, the confusion between the two Philips is quite certain in the Menaeum (or Calendar) of the Greek Church, where we read, "On the 4th of September is the commemoration of Saint Hermione, one of the four daughters of the Apostle Philip, who baptized the eunuch of Candace. She and her sister Eutychis came into Asia after the death of the Apostle John. She was buried at Ephesus." A fragment of Caius (in Eusebius, 'Eccl. Hist.,' 3:31) increases the confusion by speaking of" the four daughters of Philip, prophetesses, who were buried in Hierapolis" (see Routh's 'Reliq. Sac.,' vol. 1. pp. 378-380). Acts 21:9
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