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Jamieson, Fausset & Brown :: Commentary on Acts 18

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The Acts of the Apostles

Commentary by DAVID BROWN



      1-4. came to Corinth--rebuilt by Julius Caesar on the isthmus between the AEgean and Ionian Seas; the capital of the Roman province of Achaia, and the residence of the proconsul; a large and populous mercantile city, and the center of commerce alike for East and West; having a considerable Jewish population, larger, probably, at this time than usual, owing to the banishment of the Jews from Rome by Claudius Caesar ( Act 18:2 ). Such a city was a noble field for the Gospel, which, once established there, would naturally diffuse itself far and wide.

      2. a Jew. . . Aquila. . . with his wife Priscilla--From these Latin names one would conclude that they had resided so long in Rome as to lose their Jewish family names.
      born in Pontus--the most easterly province of Asia Minor, stretching along the southern shore of the Black Sea. From this province there were Jews at Jerusalem on the great Pentecost ( Act 2:9 ), and the Christians of it are included among "the strangers of the dispersion," to whom Peter addressed his first Epistle ( 1Pe 1:1 ). Whether this couple were converted before Paul made their acquaintance, commentators are much divided. They may have brought their Christianity with them from Rome [OLSHAUSEN], or Paul may have been drawn to them merely by like occupation, and, lodging with them, have been the instrument of their conversion [MEYER]. They appear to have been in good circumstances, and after travelling much, to have eventually settled at Ephesus. The Christian friendship now first formed continued warm and unbroken, and the highest testimony is once and again borne to them by the apostle.
      Claudius, &c.--This edict is almost certainly that mentioned by SUETONIUS, in his life of this emperor [Lives of the Caesars, "Claudius," 25].

      3. tentmakers--manufacturers, probably, of those hair-cloth tents supplied by the goats of the apostle's native province, and hence, as sold in the markets of the Levant, called cilicium. Every Jewish youth, whatever the pecuniary circumstances of his parents, was taught some trade (see on JF & B for Lu 2:42), and Paul made it a point of conscience to work at that which he had probably been bred to, partly that he might not be burdensome to the churches, and partly that his motives as a minister of Christ might not be liable to misconstruction. To both these he makes frequent reference in his Epistles.

      4. the Greeks--that is, Gentile proselytes; for to the heathen, as usual, he only turned when rejected by the Jews ( Act 18:6 ).

      5, 6. And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia--that is, from Thessalonica, whither Silas had probably accompanied Timothy when sent back from Athens (see on JF & B for Ac 17:15).
      Paul was pressed in the spirit--rather (according to what is certainly the true reading) "was pressed with the word"; expressing not only his zeal and assiduity in preaching it, but some inward pressure which at this time he experienced in the work (to convey which more clearly was probably the origin of the common reading). What that pressure was we happen to know, with singular minuteness and vividness of description, from the apostle himself, in his first Epistles to the Corinthians and Thessalonians ( 1Cr 2:1-5 1Th 3:1-10 ). He had come away from Athens, as he remained there, in a depressed and anxious state of mind, having there met, for the first time, with unwilling Gentile ears. He continued, apparently for some time, laboring alone in the synagogue of Corinth, full of deep and anxious solicitude for his Thessalonian converts. His early ministry at Corinth was colored by these feelings. Himself deeply humbled, his power as a preacher was more than ever felt to lie in demonstration of the Spirit. At length Silas and Timotheus arrived with exhilarating tidings of the faith and love of his Thessalonian children, and of their earnest longing again to see their father in Christ; bringing with them also, in token of their love and duty, a pecuniary contribution for the supply of his wants. This seems to have so lifted him as to put new life and vigor into his ministry. He now wrote his FIRST EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS, in which the "pressure" which resulted from all this strikingly appears. (See JF & B for Introduction to First Thessalonians). Such emotions are known only to the ministers of Christ, and, even of them, only to such as "travail in birth until Christ be formed in" their hearers.

      6. Your blood be upon your own heads, &c.--See Eze 33:4, 9.
      from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles--Compare Act 13:46.

      7, 8. he departed thence, and entered into a certain man's house, named Justus--not changing his lodging, as if Aquila and Priscilla up to this time were with the opponents of the apostle [ALFORD], but merely ceasing any more to testify in the synagogue, and henceforth carrying on his labors in this house of Justus, which "joining hard to the synagogue," would be easily accessible to such of its worshippers as were still open to light. Justus, too, being probably a proselyte, would more easily draw a mixed audience than the synagogue. From this time forth conversions rapidly increased.

      8. Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house--an event felt to be so important that the apostle deviated from his usual practice ( 1Cr 1:14-16 ) and baptized him, as well as Caius (Gaius) and the household of Stephanas, with his own hand [HOWSON].
      many of the Corinthians. . . believed and were baptized--The beginning of the church gathered there.

      9-11. Then spake the Lord to Paul. . . by a vision, Be not afraid. . . no man shall set on thee to hurt thee, &c.--From this it would seem that these signal successes were stirring up the wrath of the unbelieving Jews, and probably the apostle feared being driven by violence, as before, from this scene of such promising labor. He is reassured, however, from above.

      10. I have much people in this city--"whom in virtue of their election to eternal life He already designates as His" (compare Act 13:48 ) [BAUMGARTEN].

      11. continued there a year and six months--the whole period of this stay at Corinth, and not merely up to what is next recorded. During some part of this period he wrote his SECOND EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS. (See JF & B for Introduction to Second Thessalonians.)

      12-17. when Gallio was the deputy--"the proconsul." See on JF & B for Ac 13:7. He was brother to the celebrated philosopher SENECA, the tutor of Nero, who passed sentence of death on both.

      13. contrary to the--Jewish
      law--probably in not requiring the Gentiles to be circumcised.

      14. If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness--any offense punishable by the magistrate.

      15. if it be a question of words and names, and of your law. . . I will be no judge, &c.--in this only laying down the proper limits of his office.

      16. drave them, &c.--annoyed at such a case.

      17. all the Greeks--the Gentile spectators.
      took Sosthenes--perhaps the successor of Crispus, and certainly the head of the accusing party. It is very improbable that this was the same Sosthenes as the apostle afterwards calls "his brother" ( 1Cr 1:1 ).
      and beat him before the judgment-seat--under the very eye of the judge.
      And Gallio cared for none of those things--nothing loath, perhaps, to see these turbulent Jews, for whom probably he felt contempt, themselves getting what they hoped to inflict on another, and indifferent to whatever was beyond the range of his office and case. His brother eulogizes his loving and lovable manners. Religious indifference, under the influence of an easy and amiable temper, reappears from age to age.

      18. Paul. . . tarried. . . yet a good while--During his long residence at Corinth, Paul planted other churches in Achaia ( 2Cr 1:1 ).
      then took. . . leave of the brethren, and sailed. . . into--rather, "for"
      Syria--to Antioch, the starting-point of all the missions to the Gentiles, which he feels to be for the present concluded.
      with him Priscilla and Aquila--In this order the names also occur in Act 18:26 (according to the true reading); compare Rom 16:3 2Ti 4:19, which seem to imply that the wife was the more prominent and helpful to the Church. Silas and Timotheus doubtless accompanied the apostle, as also Erastus, Gaius, and Aristarchus ( Act 19:22, 29 ). Of Silas, as Paul's associate, we read no more. His name occurs last in connection with Peter and the churches of Asia Minor [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].
      having shorn his head in Cenchrea--the eastern harbor of Corinth, about ten miles distant, where a church had been formed ( Rom 16:1 ).
      for he--Paul.
      had a vow--That it was the Nazarite vow ( Num 6:1-27 ) is not likely. It was probably one made in one of his seasons of difficulty or danger, in prosecution of which he cuts off his hair and hastens to Jerusalem to offer the requisite sacrifice within the prescribed thirty days [JOSEPHUS, Wars of the Jews, 2.15.1]. This explains the haste with which he leaves Ephesus ( Act 18:21 ), and the subsequent observance, on the recommendation of the brethren, of a similar vow ( Act 21:24 ). This one at Corinth was voluntary, and shows that even in heathen countries he systematically studied the prejudices of his Jewish brethren.

      19. he came to Ephesus--the capital of the Roman province of Asia. (See JF & B for Introduction to Ephesians). It was a sail, right across from the west to the east side of the AEgean Sea, of some eight or ten days, with a fair wind.
      left them there--Aquila and Priscilla.
      but he himself entered into the synagogue--merely taking advantage of the vessel putting in there.
      and reasoned with the Jews--the tense here not being the usual one denoting continuous action (as in Act 17:2 18:4 ), but that expressing a transient act. He had been forbidden to preach the word in Asia ( Act 16:6 ), but he would not consider that as precluding this passing exercise of his ministry when Providence brought him to its capital; nor did it follow that the prohibition was still in force.

      20. when they desired him to tarry--The Jews seldom rose against the Gospel till the successful preaching of it stirred them up, and there was no time for that here.

      21. I must. . . keep this feast--probably Pentecost, presenting a noble opportunity of preaching the Gospel.
      but I will return--the fulfilment of which promise is recorded in Act 19:1.

      22. And when he had landed at Caesarea--where he left the vessel.
      and gone up--that is, to Jerusalem.
      and saluted the church--In these few words does the historian despatch the apostle's FOURTH VISIT TO JERUSALEM after his conversion. The expression "going up" is invariably used of a journey to the metropolis; and thence he naturally "went down to Antioch." Perhaps the vessel reached too late for the feast, as he seems to have done nothing in Jerusalem beyond "saluting the Church," and privately offering the sacrifice with which his vow ( Act 18:18 ) would conclude. It is left to be understood, as on his arrival from his first missionary tour, that "when he was come, and had gathered the church together, he rehearsed all that God had done with him" ( Act 14:27 ) on this his second missionary journey.


      23. And after he had spent some time there--but probably not long.
      he departed--little thinking, probably, he was never more to return to Antioch.
      went over all. . . Galatia and Phrygia in order--visiting the several churches in succession. See on JF & B for Ac 16:6. Galatia is mentioned first here, as he would come to it first from Antioch. It was on this visitation that he ordained the weekly collection ( 1Cr 16:1, 2 ), which has been since adopted generally, and converted into a public usage throughout Christendom. Timotheus and Erastus, Gaius and Aristarchus, appear to have accompanied him on this journey ( Act 19:22, 29 2Cr 1:1 ), and from Second Corinthians we may presume, Titus also. The details of this visit, as of the former ( Act 16:6 ), are not given.


      This is one of the most interesting and suggestive incidental narratives in this precious history.

      24, 25. a. . . Jew named Apollos--a contraction from Apollonius.
      born at Alexandria--the celebrated city of Egypt on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean, called after its founder, Alexander the Great. Nowhere was there such a fusion of Greek, Jewish, and Oriental peculiarities, and an intelligent Jew educated in that city could hardly fail to manifest all these elements in his mental character.
      eloquent--turning his Alexandrian culture to high account.
      and mighty in the scriptures--his eloquence enabling him to express clearly and enforce skilfully what, as a Jew, he had gathered from a diligent study of the Old Testament Scriptures.
      came to Ephesus--on what errand is not known.

      25. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord. . . knowing only the baptism of John--He was instructed, probably, by some disciple of the Baptist, in the whole circle of John's teaching concerning Jesus, but no more: he had yet to learn the new light which the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost had thrown upon the Redeemer's death and resurrection; as appears from Act 19:2, 3.
      being fervent in the spirit--His heart warm, and conscious, probably, of his gifts and attainments, he burned to impart to others the truth he had himself received.
      he spake and taught diligently--rather, "accurately" (it is the same word as is rendered "perfectly" in Act 18:26 ).

      26. speak boldly in the synagogue, whom when Aquila and Priscilla heard--joying to observe the extent of Scripture knowledge and evangelical truth which he displayed, and the fervency, courage, and eloquence with which he preached the truth.
      they took him unto them--privately.
      and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly--opening up those truths, to him as yet unknown, on which the Spirit had shed such glorious light. (In what appears to be the true reading of this verse, Priscilla is put before Aquila, as in Act 18:18 [see on JF & B for Ac 18:18]; she being probably the more intelligent and devoted of the two). One cannot but observe how providential it was that this couple should have been left at Ephesus when Paul sailed thence for Syria; and no doubt it was chiefly to pave the way for the better understanding of this episode that the fact is expressly mentioned by the historian in Act 18:19. We see here also an example of not only lay agency (as it is called), but female agency of the highest kind and with the most admirable fruit. Nor can one help admiring the humility and teachableness of so gifted a teacher in sitting at the feet of a Christian woman and her husband.

      27, 28. And when he was disposed--"minded," "resolved."
      to pass into Achaia--of which Corinth, on the opposite coast (see on JF & B for Ac 18:1), was the capital; there to proclaim that Gospel which he now more fully comprehended.
      the brethren--We had not before heard of such gathered at Ephesus. But the desire of the Jews to whom Paul preached to retain him among them for some time ( Act 18:20 ), and his promise to return to them ( Act 18:21 ), seem to indicate some drawing towards the Gospel, which, no doubt, the zealous private labors of Priscilla and Aquila would ripen into discipleship.
      wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him--a beautiful specimen of "letters of recommendation" (as Act 15:23, 25-27, and see 2Cr 3:1 ); by which, as well as by interchange of deputations, &c., the early churches maintained active Christian fellowship with each other.
      when he was come, helped them much--was a great acquisition to the Achaian brethren.
      which believed through grace--one of those incidental expressions which show that faith's being a production of God's grace in the heart was so current and recognized a truth that it was taken for granted, as a necessary consequence of the general system of grace, rather than expressly insisted on. (It is against the natural order of the words to read them, as BENGEL, MEYER, and others, do, "helped through grace those who believed").

      28. For he mightily convinced the Jews--The word is very strong: "stoutly bore them down in argument," "vigorously argued them down," and the tense in that he continued to do it, or that this was the characteristic of his ministry.
      showing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ--Rather, "that the Christ (or Messiah) was Jesus." This expression, when compared with Act 18:25, seems to imply a richer testimony than with his partial knowledge he was at first able to bear; and the power with which he bore down all opposition in argument is that which made him such an acquisition to the brethren. Thus his ministry would be as good as another visitation to the Achaian churches by the apostle himself (see 1Cr 3:6 ) and the more as, in so far as he was indebted for it to Priscilla and Aquila, it would have a decidedly Pauline cast.

Introduction to John ← Prior Book
Introduction to Romans Next Book →
Commentary on Acts 17 ← Prior Chapter
Commentary on Acts 19 Next Chapter →

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