Acts 28:21
And they said to him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning you, neither any of the brothers that came showed or spoke any harm of you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) We neither received letters out of Judsea concerning thee . . .—It seems strange at first that no tidings should have come from Jerusalem of what had passed there in connection with St. Paul’s imprisonment. There was, however, hardly likely to have been time for any letters since his appeal. He had sailed somewhat late in the autumn, immediately after he had made it (Acts 25:13; Acts 27:1), and all communication by sea was suspended during the winter months. And it may be noted further that the Jews do not say that they had heard absolutely nothing about him, but that those who had come had spoken nothing evil of him. What they had heard by casual rumour may well have been consistent with St. James’s statement that “he walked orderly, and observed the Law” (Acts 21:20). It has been urged that the decree of Claudius had suspended the intercourse between the Jews of Rome and those of Jerusalem; but as the former had returned before he wrote the Epistle to the Romans, this is hardly a tenable explanation. It may, however, be taken into account that among the Jews who had returned to Rome would be not a few of those who had known St. Paul at Corinth, and were willing to bear their testimony to his character.

Acts 28:21-22. And they said, We have neither received letters, &c. — There must have been a particular providence in this; neither any of the brethren, (the Jews,) that came from Judea, showed or spake any harm of thee — This was very strange if true: that the restless and inveterate rage of the Jews, which had followed Paul whithersoever he went, should not follow him to Rome also, to get him condemned there, was remarkable. But, perhaps his accusers had not yet arrived; or the Jews did not dare to pursue him with their accusations into the court, to which, by appealing to Cesar, he had now removed his cause. But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest — What thy opinions or sentiments are, and what thou hast to say in defence of thy doctrine, as a disciple and missionary of Jesus of Nazareth; for as concerning this sect — Which professes so high regard to him; we know — In the general; that it is everywhere spoken against — And held in great contempt. This was not, nor is it ever a proof of a bad cause; but a very probable mark of a good one. Some think this refers to a fact mentioned by Justin Martyr, (Dialog. cum Tryph., pp. 171, and 368,) and afterward by Origen, (contra Cels., lib. 6.,) and Eusebius, (Ecc. Hist., lib. 4. cap. 18,) that the Jews at Jerusalem sent chosen men, of the most distinguished character, all over the world, representing the Christians as an atheistical sect, and charging them with the grossest calumnies, which the ignorant heathen advanced against them. The fact itself is very credible, but as the exact date of it cannot be ascertained, it possibly might take place after this period, and so not be the cause of the reproach now everywhere cast on the Christians. The carnal mind, which is enmity against God and his holy religion, will always dispose those who are only born after the flesh, to hate, despise, and persecute those that are born after the Spirit, and this circumstance sufficiently accounts for all the obloquy and ill treatment which the disciples of Jesus met with.28:17-22 It was for the honour of Paul that those who examined his case, acquitted him. In his appeal he sought not to accuse his nation, but only to clear himself. True Christianity settles what is of common concern to all mankind, and is not built upon narrow opinions and private interests. It aims at no worldly benefit or advantage, but all its gains are spiritual and eternal. It is, and always has been, the lot of Christ's holy religion, to be every where spoken against. Look through every town and village where Christ is exalted as the only Saviour of mankind, and where the people are called to follow him in newness of life, and we see those who give themselves up to Christ, still called a sect, a party, and reproached. And this is the treatment they are sure to receive, so long as there shall continue an ungodly man upon earth.We neither received letters ... - Why the Jews in Judea had not forwarded the accusation against Paul to their brethren at Rome, that they might continue the prosecution before the emperor, is not known. It is probable that they regarded their cause as hopeless, and chose to abandon the prosecution. Paul had been acquitted successively by Lysias, Felix, Festus, and Agrippa; and as they had not succeeded in procuring his condemnation before them, they saw no prospect of doing it at Rome, and resolved, therefore, not to press the prosecution any further.

Neither any of the brethren that came - Any of the Jews. There was a very constant contact between Judea and Rome, but it seems that the Jews who had come before Paul had arrived had not mentioned his case, so as to prejudice them against him.

21, 22. We neither received letters out of Judea concerning thee, &c.—We need not suppose (with Tholuck and others) that there was any dishonest concealment here. The distinction made between himself, against whom they heard nothing, and his "sect," as "everywhere spoken against," is a presumption in favor of their sincerity; and there is ground to think that as the case took an unexpected turn by Paul's appealing to Cæsar, so no information on the subject would travel from Jerusalem to Rome in advance of the apostle himself. The high priest, and the rest of them that had persecuted Paul, did either despond of their cause, when it should come to be impartially heard; or were supine and negligent in a matter which they pretended so highly to concern their religion; but self-ends, their present ease and reputation, were the main matters they contended for. And they said unto him,.... That is, the chief men of the Jews at Rome, whom Paul had called together, replied; either in a lying and dissembling way, or as expressing matter of fact; which last may be allowed:

we neither received letters out of Judea concerning thee: which was very much, that the high priest and sanhedrim had not wrote to the principal men of their religion at Rome; giving an account of the apostle, and his case unto them, in order to prejudice them against him, and to furnish them with charges and accusations; which if they could not prevail by them, so as to get him condemned by the emperor, yet might be a means of preventing any of their nation giving heed unto him, and embracing his sentiments and notions concerning Jesus of Nazareth:

neither any of the brethren that came from Jerusalem; or any part of Judea, to Rome; meaning not the Christian Jews, for these they would not call brethren; but those who were of the same religion as well as nation, whom it was usual with the Jews to call brethren:

shewed or spake any harm of thee; so that it looks as if they did make mention of him, but did not charge him with anything that was wicked and criminal: this they said, to show that they were not prejudiced against him by any person or means; and which carried in it a very considerable testimony of the apostle's innocence.

And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 28:21. This answer of the Jews makes it probable that Paul in his discourse had definitely suggested that they might perhaps have received written or oral insinuations concerning him from Judaea.

It appears almost incredible that neither took place, but we have to weigh the following considerations:—(1) Before the appeal the Jews had no ground inducing them to make communications regarding him to the Romans in Jews in particular, because they could not conjecture that Paul, then a prisoner in Caesarea, and whom they hoped to destroy presently, would ever come into contact with their brethren in the distant West. (2) After the appeal it was hardly possible for the Jews to forward accounts to Rome before his arrival there. For the transportation of the apostle, which followed at any rate soon after the entering of the appeal (Acts 25:13, Acts 27:1), occurred so late in autumn, and so shortly before the closing of the navigation (Acts 27:9), that there is extreme improbability in the supposition of another vessel having earlier opportunity of reaching Italy than Paul himself, whose vessel in spring, after the opening of the navigation, had to sail only the short distance between Malta and Puteoli, and that, too, with a favourable wind (Acts 28:13). (3) There remains, therefore, only the possible case, that during Paul’s two years’ imprisonment at Caesarea evil reports concerning him might have come to the Roman Jews in some accidental way (not officially) by means of private letters or Jewish travellers. Indeed—considering the lively intercourse between Judaea and Rome, and the great noise which the labours of the apostle had made for many years, as well as the strong opposition which he had excited among the Jews—it can by no means be supposed that these labours and this opposition should have continued unknown to the Roman Jews.[180] But the πρῶτοι of the Roman Jews here proceed with reserve under dread of possible eventualities, and prudently fall back upon the official standpoint; and so they affirm—what, taken in all the strictness of the literal sense, might certainly be no untruth—that they on their part (ἡμεῖς) had neither received letters concerning him, nor oral notification or statement (ἐλαλ.: “in sermone quotidiano”) of anything evil concerning him. The more impartial they thus appear and maintain a politic spirit of frankness, the more openly, they at the same time hope, will Paul express his mind and disclose his purposes (Acts 28:22). Zeller therefore too rashly seizes on the seeming contradiction to truth in Acts 28:21, as warranting the inference that the non-historical character of the narrative is evident.[181] The explanation also to which Olshausen has recourse appears erroneous: that by the expulsion of the Jews from Rome under Claudius, the connections, which the Jews of Jerusalem had with them, were broken off; that only very slowly and secretly the Roman Jews returned in the first years of Nero; and that therefore those who were in Palestine were not properly informed of this situation of matters in Rome, and accordingly made no notification concerning Paul to that quarter. Even a priori, such a strange ignorance of the Jews as to the fortunes of their very numerous countrymen (Dio Cass, xxxvi. 6; Suet. Tib. 36; Philo, leg. ad Caium, p. 568; Tac. Ann. ii. 85) in the capital of the world is very improbable; and, from a historical point of view, that expulsion of the Roman Jews had occurred so many years before, and the edict of banishment was at all events only of such temporary force (see on Acts 18:2, and Anger, temp. rat. p. 118 f.), that the renewed toleration of the Jews, permitted either expressly or tacitly, is to be placed even under the reign of Claudius. See, moreover, on Rom. Introd. § 2.

[180] It has indeed been thought that the Jews, in their plot against the life of the apostle, might have had a motive for not allowing their exasperation against him to become notorious, least of all at Rome (see Lange, apostol. Zeitalt. I. p. 106). But even granting this arbitrarily assumed calculation on their part, the hostile disposition in Judaea was much too general (Acts 21:21) to admit of control over the spread of the hostile report to a distance.

[181] Comp. Holtzmann, Judenth. u. Christenth. p. 785, who suggests that the author wished to evade touching on the wide opposition between Paul and Jewish Christianity. But merely to evade this point, he would have needed only to suppress vv. 21, 22, instead of putting such a surprising expression into the mouth of the Jews.Acts 28:21. πρὸς αὐτὸν: the emphatic position of the words may indicate, as Weiss suggests, that as Paul had spoken to them up to this point of a personal matter, so they in reply spoke with a like reference.—αὔτε γράμματα, i.e., no official letters from the Sanhedrim—this was practically impossible, for it is not likely that any ship had left Cæsarea before Paul’s departure with such intelligence (so Weiss, Blass, Hackett).—τῶν ἀδελ., i.e., of the Jewish nation, cf. Acts 28:17. The Jews do not assert that they know nothing of Paul, but only that with reference to the statement which he had just made they had received no report (ἀπήγ., cf. R.V., so Acts 4:23), or had any of his countrymen spoken evil of him. The aorists point to this limitation of the assertion (Page’s note, and Nösgen, in loco), and this view prevents us from seeing any contradiction between Acts 28:21-22, for if the statement in the former verse be taken quite generally of Paul’s work, the Jews contradicted themselves in Acts 28:22, where they evidently include Paul in this sect (ταύτης), of which they knew that it was everywhere spoken against.—πονηρόν: the stress need not be laid on this word, as if the sentence meant that they had heard something about Paul, but nothing evil; it may well have been chosen with reference to the Apostle’s own expression, οὐδὲν ἐναντίον.21. letters out of [R. V. from] Judea concerning thee] This may easily be understood. For no ship starting later than that in which St Paul sailed was likely to have arrived in Rome before he reached that city, and the Jews who conducted the accusation would take a little time for drawing up all the details which they desired to lay before the court of appeal, so that their despatch would be sent later than the time of Paul’s sailing. For before it was determined that he should be sent to Rome they would see no necessity for informing the Jews there concerning his case.

neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee] [R. V. “nor did any of the brethren come hither and report or speak &c.”] The English of the A. V. makes the words refer to any who might have come to Rome from Judæa at any time. And it is conceivable that during the time between Paul’s first arrest and his arrival in Rome many opportunities might have arisen for news about the prisoner to have been sent to Rome. But in the original it appears as if only the present time were in the minds of the speakers, and what they want to say is represented by the R.V. “Nobody has come in connection with this trial and appeal to tell us any evil about thee.” They seem not to have been at all anxious to move in the matter. At whatever time the edict of Claudius was withdrawn it could only be within the last few years (ten at the most) that the Jewish population had been again permitted to come to Rome. They were probably loath therefore to call public attention again to their nation by appearing before the court of appeal in a cause connected with their religion.Acts 28:21. Οὔτε, neither) It had been the winter time: and Paul had not long before appealed to Cæsar.—τῶν ἀδελφῶν, of the brethren) Jews.—ἀπήγγειλεν, hath announced) professedly and formally.—ἐλάλησε, hath spoken) viz. in every-day conversation.Verse 21. - From for out of, A.V.; nor for neither, A.V.; did any of the brethren come hither and report or speak for any of the brethren that came showed or spake, A.V. Nor did any of the brethren come hither, etc. This is no improvement on the A.V.; for it implies that they denied that any special messenger had been sent to speak harm of Paul, which nobody could have thought had been done. What they meant to say is exactly what the A.V. makes them say, viz. that, neither by special letters, nor by message nor casual information brought by Jews coming to Rome from Judaea, had they heard any harm of him. This seems odd; but as the Jews had no apparent motive for not speaking the truth, we must accept it as true. The expulsion of the Jews from Rome by Claudius (Acts 18:1) may have slackened the intercourse between Judaea and Rome; the attention of the Jews may have been absorbed by their accusation of Felix; there had been a very short interval between Paul's appeal and his departure for Rome; he had only been at Rome three days, and so it is very possible that no report had yet reached Rome concerning him at this early season of the year.
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