Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita.Acts 28:1-10. The shipwrecked company hospitably entertained in Malta. Paul, bitten by a viper, feels no hurt. Cure of the father of the chief magistrate
1. And when they were escaped] The oldest MSS. give the first person plural in this verse. Render (with R. V.) “when we were … we knew.”
Melita] They would at once learn what the land was from the natives whom they found on the shore. Tradition has from the earliest times identified Melita with the modern Malta. But Constantine Porphyrogenitus (de Adm. Imp. p. 36) and others after him have attempted to shew that Meleda, a small island in the Adriatic Sea, not far from the coast of Illyria, was the scene of the shipwreck. They have supported this opinion by confining the sense of Adria (Acts 27:27) to the modem Adriatic Sea, by their explanation of “barbarians” in the next verse of this chapter, and by the absence of vipers at the present time from the island of Malta. But the latter circumstance is not without a parallel. The advance of cultivation and alteration of temperature have destroyed poisonous beasts out of other districts besides Malta, and the two first arguments are founded on mistakes. Moreover it is hardly possible to conceive that a ship should be driven for fourteen days in the Adriatic without going ashore, and the direction in which they sailed after finding a fresh vessel (Acts 28:11-12) is also completely opposed to the idea that they were wrecked in the Gulf of Venice.
And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.2. And the barbarous people] [R. V. barbarians] The word is used in the original, as it was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Those who did not speak their language were to them always “barbarians” not necessarily in our modern sense but as strange and foreign folks. The language spoken in Malta was probably a Phœnician dialect, as the island had received most of its inhabitants from Carthage, but had come under Roman rule in the second Punic war (Livy, xxi. 51).
shewed us no little [R. V. no common] kindness] The same Greek expression is used Acts 19:11 of St Paul’s miracles. There both versions give “special” as the rendering. And we might here read “shewed us especial kindness.”
received us every one] [R. V. all] i.e. took us under their care. At first of course the hospitality would be shewn by kind treatment on the beach, evidenced by their lighting a fire. Afterwards, as the stay was of three months’ duration, the sailors and prisoners would find quarters in the dwellings of the natives. Paul, the centurion, and some others were received into the house of the chief magistrate. The rain continued after they had got ashore, and the storm had so lowered the temperature that the first thing to be done was to make a large fire.
And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand.3. And [R. V. But] when Paul had gathered] This is only another sign of the active spirit of the Apostle. Whatever was to be done, if he were able to take a part in it, he was never wanting, whether it was in counselling about a difficulty, in comforting under danger, or helping by bodily labour to relieve the general distress.
a bundle of sticks] The word in the original would apply very fitly to the brushwood and furze which is said to be the only material growing near St Paul’s Bay of which a fire could be made.
there came a viper] Dr Farrar (Life of St Paul, ii. 384, note) has noticed that the viper has disappeared from the isle of Arran, as it is now said to have done from Malta.
out of the heat] [R. V. by reason of the heat] The original has the preposition usually rendered “from.” The R.V. gives the better explanation of its meaning here. The creature had been numbed by the cold, and feeling the sudden warmth, woke up and sprang away from it.
And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.4. saw the venomous beast] There is nothing in the Greek to represent “venomous,” though it was because the inhabitants knew that such was its character that they were so astonished at what happened.
Vengeance suffereth not to live] [R. V. “Justice hath not suffered to live”] This is an instance in which the A.V. expresses far more truly than the R. V. the sense of the Greek. The indefinite meaning of the Greek aorist is often more like what we call the English present than the perfect. “I eat” does not necessarily mean “I am eating” and covers more time than “I have eaten.” It may be present, but it can refer both to past and future time. What the people meant to say was that Justice, as her wont is, is finding out the wrong-doer.
And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.5. And [R. V. Howbeit] he shook off the beast] The rendering of the particles by the R. V. is to be preferred. The verb is the same which is used (Luke 9:5) of shaking off dust from the feet. The idea conveyed is that Paul was quite composed in what he did, and that the beast was no cause of alarm to him.
Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.6. Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen] Better (with R.V.) “But they expected that he would have swollen.” Such being the usual effect of the viper’s bite, and making itself apparent in a very short time.
but after they had looked a great while] [R. V. “but when they were long in expectation.”] The verb is the same as in the first clause of the verse, and does not express merely the gazing upon Paul, but the thought in their minds of what was to come. The pluperfect of the A.V. is the better English. So read “when they had been long in expectation.”
saw no harm] [R.V. “beheld nothing amiss.”] The adjective is the same which is used, Luke 23:41, “This man hath done nothing amiss,” and can be applied to anything abnormal, whether it be as there a breach of a law, or as here a change of condition.
and said that he was a god] Compare the conduct of the Lycaonians in Lystra (Acts 14:11 seqq.), whose behaviour afterwards shews that the opinion quickly formed was unstable, and liable to change as suddenly as it came.
In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously.7. In the same quarters were possessions of &c.] The A.V. omits the conjunction, and the indefinite word “possessions” is improved on by R. V. “Now in the neighbourhood of that place were lands belonging to, &c.” The nearest place to what is believed to have been the scene of the wreck is the town now called Alta Vecchia.
the chief man of the island] The Greek word is “Protos,” which is known from inscriptions (see Bochart, Geogr. ii. 1. 26) to have been the official title of the governor of Melita. The island of Melita belonged to the province of the Sicilian Prætor (Cicero, Verr. iv. 18), whose legate Publius probably was. Tradition makes him become bishop of Malta.
who received us] This was only natural in the Roman official, for Paul was under the charge of a Roman officer, and had appealed for hearing to the Roman Emperor.
and lodged [R. V. entertained] us three days] This was until arrangements could be made for a more permanent dwelling-place. As they must remain in the island through the stormy weather of winter, before they could start again, it would be needful to provide them with settled quarters. They could not be guests for the whole three months.
And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him.8. And it came to pass, that] [R.V. “and it was so, that”]. The R. V. is the better modern rendering. The expression means “It happened that, &c.,” not that after the arrival of St Paul the father fell ill, which might be taken as the meaning of the A. V.
of a fever and of a bloody flixe] [R. V. “of fever and dysentery”]. The words are technical such as a physician, as St Luke is reputed to have been, would be likely to use in describing the disease. The first, which is in the plural number, implies the fits of fever which occur at intervals in such diseases as ague.
So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed:9. others also] [R. V. the rest also] The latter rendering is to be preferred. It was not a few who came, but during the three months of their stay all the others who were in sickness and heard of what had been done for the father of the chief magistrate (and it was sure to be widely noised abroad) came to be cured.
who also honoured us] i.e. the whole people upon whom these benefits had been conferred honoured Paul and for his sake the rest of the party.
with many honours] No doubt these included gifts of money and such things as would be needed by travellers who had lost everything in the shipwreck: but to restrict the word to the sense of “honorarium” or fee, such as might be paid to a physician, is to narrow the meaning needlessly, and to put a construction on the proceeding which it cannot bear. The Apostle who prayed and laid his hands on the sick and healed them was not the sort of person to whom they would offer money as a fee.
and when we departed] [R. V. sailed] This is better, for the word is one constantly used of putting out to sea, and not of any ordinary departure by other modes of travel.
they laded us with such things as were necessary] [R. V. “they put on board such things as we needed”]. The bounty must have been large if we consider the number of those for whom it was given. But Publius would set the example and others would not be slow to follow it.
Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.
And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux.11–16. The voyage from Malta and the arrival in Rome
11. And after three months] The proper season for sailing having again come round, now that the winter was over.
we departed] [R. V. set sail]. The verb is the same as in the preceding verse.
in a ship of Alexandria] Another vessel employed in the same trade probably as that in which (Acts 28:6) they had embarked at Myra, and suffered so many perils.
which had wintered in the isle] Having got so far on the voyage out before the stormy weather came on. As the harbour was then where it now is, the ship had wintered in what is now Valetta.
whose sign was Castor and Pollux] [R. V. the Twin Brothers]. The Greek is Dioscuri, the name given to Jupiter’s two sons born of Leda, who, when they were translated to the sky, became a constellation of special favour towards sailors. Horace speaks of them as “lucida sidera” (Od. i. 3. 2), where he describes their beneficent influence on the ocean. By “sign” is meant what we now call “figure-head,” only that the ancient ships had such signs both at stem and stern, and often the figure was that of some divinity.
If for no other reason than the description of the vessel in which the further journey was performed we cannot accept the theory that the wreck took place in the Adriatic sea. It would be hard to conceive of a vessel from Alexandria, which had stopped on its voyage to Italy to avoid the storms of winter, being found so far out of its course as Meleda in the Adriatic.
And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days.12. And landing [R. V. touching] at Syracuse] The vessel takes the regular road, sailing north from Valetta to Sicily. Syracuse was one of the chief towns of Sicily lying on the south-eastern extremity, and was famous in classical history as the scene of many of the disasters of the Athenian fleet and army in their expedition to Sicily during the Peloponnesian war.
And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli:13. we fet a compass] [R.V. “made a circuit”] The old English phrase of the A. V. is not uncommon, cp. 2 Samuel 5:23; 2 Kings 3:9. They made this winding course because the favourable wind, for which they had probably been waiting during the three days’ stay at Syracuse, did not come. “Fet” is the old preterite of “fetch” and is found often in the version of 1611, but has been changed by modern printers.
came to [R. V. arrived at] Rhegium] The modern Reggio situated at the southern point of Italy, on the straits of Messina. At this place Caligula designed to construct a harbour for these corn ships coming from Egypt to Italy, but his intention was never carried out.
the south wind blew] Better (with R. V.) “a south wind sprang up.” Thus by a change of wind they were able to go speedily forward, instead of tacking as they had been obliged to do from Syracuse to Rhegium.
to Puteoli] This is the modern Pozzuoli, near Naples. In St Paul’s day it was a principal port of Rome, and to it came most of the corn supply from Egypt.
Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome.14. where we found brethren] i.e. there was a Christian Church established in Puteoli, and it was to such a degree well known, that the Apostle on his arrival at once learnt of its existence. From this we may gather that the Christians in Italy had already spread to a considerable extent, and hence it seems very probable that Christianity had been carried into that country from Jerusalem soon after the first Pentecostal preaching, at which time Roman visitors were present in the Holy City. Of course in such a place as Puteoli the Jews were likely to congregate, for the sake of trade, more than in many other places of Italy, and from their body the earliest converts to Christianity must have been made. But that, without any previous recorded visit of an Apostle, there should already be in Puteoli a numerous band of Christians is evidence of the zeal with which the new faith was being propagated. For it was now only about 28 years since the death of Jesus.
and were desired] [R. V. intreated]. The stronger word represents the original better. It has generally been thought that the duration of this stay was arranged so that the Apostle might be present with the Church in Puteoli at least over one Lord’s day. Thus the Christian congregation would be able to gather in its entirety, and to hear from the lips of the great Apostle of the Gentiles, the Gospel for which he was now “an ambassador in bonds.” We do not know whether any circumstances occurred to detain Julius in Puteoli, but if it were not so, it is a token of the great influence which St Paul had obtained over the centurion, that he was permitted to stay such a long time with his Christian friends, when the capital was so near at hand.
and so we went toward Rome] The Greek is more nearly represented by the R. V. “and so we came to Rome.” The narrative at first speaks of the completed voyage, and then in Acts 28:15 mention is made of some details which relate to the short land journey from Puteoli to the capital.
And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.15. when the brethren heard of us] Between Puteoli and Rome there was constant communication, and the seven days of the Apostle’s sojourn in the port were amply sufficient to make the whole Christian body in Rome aware of his arrival in Italy and of the time when he would set out towards the city.
they came to meet us] If it were quite certain that the sixteenth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans was part of the letter which was sent to that Church we might make sure of the names of some who would be of the party which started from Rome to welcome St Paul on his arrival in Italy. Aquila and Priscilla, Epænetus; Andronicus and Junias, who are both spoken of as having been formerly fellow-prisoners with the Apostle; Rufus, Herodion and Apelles, who are mentioned there in terms of the greatest affection, could hardly have failed to be among the company at Appii Forum. But the whole closing chapter of the Epistle to the Romans appears to apply better to some Asiatic Church, probably Ephesus, than to Rome, and so it is unsafe to conclude that the Christians there mentioned were those who now met St Paul and cheered him on his way.
as far as Appii forum] [R. V. the Market of Appius] The name ‘Forum’ seems to have been given by the Romans to places such as we should now call Borough-towns. The town here mentioned was situated on the Appian Way, the great road from Rome to Brundusium. Both road and town owed their name to the famous Appius Claudius, the Roman Censor, and this town is mentioned by Horace as crowded with sailors, and abounding in tavernkeepers of bad character (Sat. i. 5. 4). It was distant rather more than forty miles from Rome, and as the Appian Way was only one of two ways by which travellers could go from Appii Forum to the Imperial City, it was natural that the deputation from Rome should halt here and wait for the Apostle’s arrival.
The three taverns] The name “Tabernæ” had in Latin a much wider signification than the English “Taverns” and was applied to any shop whatever, not as the English word to one where refreshments are sold. The site of this place has not been identified, but it is said to have been about ten miles nearer to Rome than Appii Forum; and the body of Christians who came as far as this had perhaps set out from Rome later than their brethren. The whole distance from Puteoli to Rome was about 140 miles. “Tres Tabernæ” is placed 33 miles from Rome.
he thanked God, and took courage] When thinking and writing about his coming to Rome, Paul had never thought that his first visit to it would be as a prisoner. He had hoped (Romans 1:11-12) to come as the bearer of some spiritual blessing, and to be comforted himself by the faith of the Roman brethren. How different was the event from what he had pictured. But yet here were some of the brethren, and their faith and love were made manifest by their journey to meet the Apostle, and no doubt they brought with them the salutations of all the Church. This was somewhat to be thankful for. The prisoner would not be without sympathy, and the spiritual gift might be imparted even though Paul was no longer free. The cause of Christ was advancing; and cheered by the evidence of this the Apostle’s heart revived.
And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.16. And when we came to Rome] There was much that might have been said of this land journey from Puteoli to Rome, and the writer of the Acts was one of the fellow-travellers. But it is foreign to his purpose to dwell on anything which does not concern the spread of the Gospel according to the command of Jesus (Acts 1:8), and so he leaves all the glorious sights and scenery unmentioned, and tells us no word of the many monuments which stood along the Appian Way, only noticing, what his history required, the two little bands, that represented Christ’s cause and the work of the Gospel, in the great city to which they were approaching.
the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but] For these words there is no text in the oldest Greek MSS. which we possess. But the words are not of the same character as many of the sentences which seem introduced into the text of the Acts by later hands. They are entirely independent of anything either in the Acts or the Epistles of St Paul, and it is not easy to understand why they should have been added to the original text. There is moreover such similarity between the ending of the first and last words in the clause, that the eye of an early scribe may have passed over from the one to the other, and thus omitted the clause, and in this way may have originated the text of the MSS. which leave the passage out.
The “Captain of the Guard” here alluded to was probably the “præfectus prætorio,” one of whose duties was to take charge of those persons from the provinces whose causes were to be brought before the Emperor.
Paul was suffered to dwell [R. V. abide] by himself] This lenity was probably due to the commendation of the centurion Julius, who cannot but have found that he had charge of no ordinary prisoner in St Paul, and having been saved and aided by the Apostle’s advice would naturally wish to do something in return.
with a soldier that kept [R. V. guarded] him] The custom was that the prisoner should be chained by one hand to the soldier while he was on guard. And to this chain the Apostle often makes allusion in the Epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon) written during this imprisonment. See also below, Acts 28:20. The frequent change of the person who guarded him would give the Apostle an opportunity of spreading the knowledge of his cause, and the message of the Gospel, very widely among the Prætorian guards who had him in charge, and many things would have been heard by them from the soldiers who had sailed with St Paul, which would make them ready to attend to the narrative of their prisoner.
And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.17–28. St Paul’s interview with the Jews in Rome
17. after three days] At first the Apostle would naturally desire to learn all he could of the Christian congregations at Rome from those who had been the first to welcome him on his approach to that city. But for this, three days sufficed. Then he set about explaining his position to those of his fellow-countrymen, not Christians, who were of most importance in Rome. For to them would most probably be forwarded an account of the charges to be laid against the Apostle, and of the evidence by which they were to be supported.
Paul called the chief of the Jews together] Keeping still to the rule to offer the Gospel first to the Jews, even here in Rome, where he had good reason to think that his message would not be received. The decree by which in the reign of Claudius all the Jews had been banished from Rome (Acts 18:2) was evidently no longer in force. For clearly there was an important body of them resident in the city.
Men and brethren] See note on Acts 1:16.
though I have committed [R. V. had done] nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers] For everywhere had he shewn himself desirous that his own people should hear the message of the Gospel first, and for Jews he had never forbidden circumcision, only insisting that Gentile converts should not be forced to submit to the Jewish law before they were received into the Christian Church.
delivered prisoner … into the hands of the Romans] He describes the result, rather than the steps by which it was brought about. The chief captain had rescued him from the violence of the Jewish mob, and he had never since been out of the care of the Roman authorities. Yet but for the Jews he never would have been a Roman prisoner, and when the Sadducees in Jerusalem found that he was not to be given up to them, they made themselves his accusers before Felix and Festus.
Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me.18. would have let me go] [R. V. “desired to set me at liberty”] Alluding most probably to Agrippa’s remark (Acts 26:32) and the statement of Festus (Acts 25:25). It seems probable that Felix would have found means to set Paul free had the requisite bribe been offered to him (Acts 24:26). All were convinced of his innocence.
But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.19. not that I had ought to accuse my nation of] St Paul shews himself the patriotic Jew. He knew how many things his fellow-countrymen had suffered at the hands of the Roman power, and he did not wish in any way to bring on them any more trouble. He therefore explains that he had taken the course of appealing to Cæsar only because he saw no other means of obtaining his release. If that were secured he wished to lay no charge at the door of his accusers or their brethren in Rome.
For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.20. For this cause therefore have I called for you to see you, and to speak with you] [R. V. “did I intreat you to see and to speak with me”] As the marginal note in the R. V. shews, the A. V. may be a correct rendering of the Greek, and it is more probable that Paul would say that he wished to speak to the Jews than that he wished them to come and speak with him.
because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain] The hope of Israel is the general expectation of Messiah. In Jesus Paul believed that the expected Saviour had appeared, and for preaching this he had been attacked and made a prisoner. He held the same faith as all the Jews, only going in this matter farther than they in that he believed the ancient promise was now fulfilled. We can see from the reply of the Jews that they understood his position exactly.
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.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.
But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.22. But we desire to hear of thee] He was a Jew, one of their own nation, and was likely to be able to put his belief before them in its true light. They professed to be open to reason, but this may have been only because they knew not what else to do.
concerning this sect] It is clear from this expression that they had learnt from St Paul’s speech, though St Luke does not record the words, that he was an adherent of Jesus of Nazareth, and held that in Him “the hope of Israel” had been fulfilled.
we know] [R. V. “it is known to us”]. The change has the merit of being very literal. Other merit it would be hard to find in it.
every where it is spoken against] They were doubtless aware of many of the attacks which had been made by their countrymen on the Christians both in the cities of Asia and Europe, and would have heard them spoken of as the men who were turning the world upside down. The result of the conference was that a day was fixed, on which the Apostle should set forth to them his opinions, so that, as they had no other means for deciding on their course of action, they might discover for themselves what would be the best course to take.
And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.23. many] The original is the comparative degree, and implies that the first visitors had been only a small deputation, but that on the set day they and their fellows appeared “in greater numbers.”
into his lodging] From this it would seem that for the first portion of the time that Paul was in Rome, he was allowed to accept the hospitality of the Christian body, and though chained to his guard, yet to be resident in a house which his friends had provided for him, and where he was, as far as he could be under the circumstances, treated as their guest.
to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God] [R. V. “expounded the matter, testifying the, &c.”] i.e. bearing witness that the Messianic hope, which the Jews all spake of as the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven, had now been revealed.
from morning till evening] It is clear from what follows that as in Jerusalem so here, there were some to whom the Apostle’s words were not all unwelcome. This accounts for their staying to hear him the whole day through.
And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.24. some believed not] [R. V. disbelieved]. No doubt both the Sadducees and the Pharisees had their representatives here as elsewhere among the Jewish population.
And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,25. agreed not among themselves] This may have been the real cause of their inaction in the matter of the Apostle’s trial. He would not have been without a party of supporters among their own body.
unto our [R. V. your] fathers] The change of pronoun has the support of the oldest MSS., and is more in accord with the spirit in which St Paul is speaking. He would wish to distinguish these obstinate Jews from himself and others who received the words of the Old Testament as fulfilled in Jesus.
Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:26. saying, &c.] The passage which the Apostle quotes is from Isaiah 6:9, and had already been quoted by our Lord himself against the Jews (Matthew 13:14; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; see also John 12:40) when He was explaining why all His teaching was given in parables. He spake in this wise first because had He said openly all that He wished to teach He would have had far less chance of acceptance than when His message was veiled under a parable; and next He so spake that those only who cared to manifest a desire to know the deeper meaning of His words might be able to do so. His words were for those who had ears to hear. But most of those to whom He spake had not.
Hearing [R. V. “By hearing”] i.e. with the outward organs ye shall catch what is said, but since ye have no heart for the message, ye shall not understand.
For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.27. and should be converted] [R. V. “and should turn again”] The new rendering is to be preferred on account of the restricted meaning which in modern speech has become attached to the word “convert.” In the older language it signified “to turn round and go back again.”
Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.28. the [R. V. this] salvation of God] The oldest MSS. add “this,” and it has been almost surely omitted in later MSS. by the carelessness of the scribes. The Apostle would be anxious to emphasize that the doctrine which he was preaching to them and which they were rejecting, that this, was God’s very message of salvation.
and that they will hear it] This is certainly a wrong sense of the original. The Apostle does not wish to convey, as the English Version does, a taunt to the Jews that they come behind the Gentiles. What he wants to express is, that now the message has been given according to Christ’s command to the Jews everywhere, for Rome may be regarded as the centre of the then known world, and now the time has come when the Gentiles should in their turn be privileged to have everywhere the offers of the Gospel. Therefore read (with R. V.) “they will also hear” (i.e. as well as you), though looked upon by strict Jews as beyond the pale of salvation.
And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.29. And when, &c.] This verse is omitted in the oldest MSS. and in R.V.
And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,30. And Paul] The proper name is omitted in the oldest MSS., and this omission supports the rejection of Acts 28:29. It is only the insertion of that verse which rendered the word “Paul” here needful to the sense.
two whole years] Of these years we have no history, except such as we can gather from the four Epistles which were written from Rome during the time (see above on Acts 28:16). We know that from first to last the chain galled both his body and mind (Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 4:1; Php 1:13; Php 1:16; Colossians 4:18; Philem. Acts 28:1; Acts 28:9-10), and that his case was at times an object of much anxiety (Php 2:23-24). We also learn from the same letters that beside Luke and Aristarchus (Acts 27:27), he had also the fellowship, for some time at least, of Tychicus, who (Ephesians 6:21) was the bearer of his letter to Ephesus; of Timothy, whom (Php 1:1; Colossians 1:1; Philemon 1:1) he joins with himself in the greeting to the Churches of Philippi and Colossæ and also in that to Philemon. In the former of these Churches Timothy had been a fellow-labourer with the Apostle. Epaphroditus came with the Philippian contributions to the need of the imprisoned Apostle (Php 4:18). Onesimus found out St Paul when in flight from his master he made his way to Rome (Colossians 4:9; Philemon 1:10) Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, was also there, and another Jewish convert, Jesus, called Justus, of whom we only know that the Apostle considered him worthy to be called a fellow-worker unto the kingdom of God (Colossians 3:12). Epaphras, from the churches in Laodicea and Hierapolis, had come to visit Paul, and to bring him the greetings doubtless of the Christians there, and carry back some words of earnest counsel and advice from the Roman prisoner (Colossians 3:12). Last of all Demas was there, soon after to be mentioned as having forsaken the good way through love of this present world (Colossians 3:14; 2 Timothy 4:10). More than this and the few words in this verse we do not know of this first imprisonment.
in his own hired house] [R. V. dwelling] The means for such hiring were provided by the liberality of the Philippians and others, for the Apostle could no longer with his own hands minister even to his own wants.
all that came [R. V. went] in unto him] For the fulness of Gospel freedom had now been reached, and the word of God and the kingdom of God were open to all who sought unto them.
with all confidence, no man forbidding him] The word rendered “confidence” [R. V. “boldness”] implies that “freedom of speech” which was looked upon by the Athenians as the great mark of their liberty. For Englishmen there must arise the thought that perhaps from some of those Roman soldiers who heard Paul in his prison the message of the Gospel came first to our island.
The historian had now reached the end of his work, and does not even tell the manner of the Apostle’s release, though as he mentions the duration of the imprisonment, he must have known how he came to be liberated. But that concerned not the purpose of his record, and so he has no word more. “Victoria Verbi Dei. Paulus Romæ. Apex Evangelii. Actorum Finis” (Bengel).
Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.