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Book of Acts Chapter 21 - Christogenea Internet Radio 11-22-2013
Presenting these last three chapters of Acts, chapters 18 through 20, we discussed where Paul had written each of the seven of those of his surviving epistles which were written while he was a free man. The first epistle to the Thessalonians was, no doubt, the earliest of Paul's surviving epistles and was written in Corinth (Acts 18, 1 Thessalonians 3:6). The second epistle to the Thessalonians followed the first in short time and was very likely also written from Corinth during Paul's long sojourn there. The epistle to the Galatians was written during Paul's stay in Antioch which is described in Acts 18:22-23, where he also had his final meeting with Peter described in Galatians chapter 2. It could not have been written before that time. Paul visited the Galatians soon thereafter, and his epistle reflects an anticipation to visit them in its fourth chapter (4:18, 20). The epistle which we know as 1 Corinthians was written from Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8, 19), during the three-year period that Paul stayed in Ephesus described in Acts chapter 19. The second epistle to the Corinthians was written as Paul journeyed from Makedonia to visit Achaia for the last time, and before he reached Corinth for his final visit there. This was fully elucidated last week as we discussed the circumstances of Paul's travels in relation both to the circumstances of his ministry and to the things which he wrote to them in that epistle. The first epistle to Timothy was written from Greece around this same time, as the circumstances indicate in conjunction with Paul's own comment at 1 Timothy 1:3. Finally, the epistle to the Romans was written from the Troad, during Paul's stay there described at the beginning of Acts chapter 20, which is evident from both the lists of men who were with Paul provided in Acts 20 and Romans 16, and also from Paul's comments concerning his ministry and his plans to visit Rome which were made in Romans chapter 15 (15:22-28).
The other seven of Paul's surviving epistles were all written while he was in bonds, six of themfrom Rome (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon)while one, the epistle to the Hebrews, was ostensibly written while Paul was under arrest in Caesareia. We will present the evidence for this in summary as we present the closing chapters of Acts. However it cannot be taken for granted that we have all of Paul's epistles. In 1 Corinthians 5:9 Paul mentions a previous letter which he had written to them, which is apparently now lost. In Colossians 4:16, one of the letters written from Rome, we see that Paul had also written an epistle to the Laodiceans, and Laodicea was not far from Colossae. This epistle is also apparently lost. It would not be fantastic to imagine that Paul had written many more epistles during his ministry, which are also now lost.
Acts chapter 20 leaves off with the elders of the Christian assembly of Ephesus escorting Paul of Tarsus to a ship bound for Syria, that he may be in Jerusalem before the Pentecost, which was evidently the Pentecost of 57 AD. This chapter of Acts, chapter 21, opens as Paul is on a ship headed to Syria, so that Paul could go to Jerusalem. Others are with him, including Luke, as once again the narrative is being written in the first person.
XXI 1 And it came to pass, we setting sail being drawn away from them, running a straight course came to Kos, and thereafter to Rhodos [or Rhodes] and from there to Patara, [A and C have “Patera”; D has “Patara and Mura” (v. 27:5); the text follows א, B, E, and the MT] 2 then finding a ship going across to Phoenicia, boarding we set sail. 3 And Kupros coming into view and leaving it behind on the left [or perhaps “passing it on the left”] we sailed to Suria and arrived [C and the MT have “landed”]at Turos. For there the ship was unloading the freight.
Tyre, or often Tyrus in Scripture, is where the legendary Europa was born. The Greek myth and the names are certainly not accidental. The mainland city, called Ushu by the Assyrians, was to a great degree destroyed by the same Nebuchadnezzar who shortly thereafter razed Jerusalem. The island city was destroyed, razed completely, nearly 300 years later by Alexander. During the Hellenistic period Tyre regained commercial significance as a port city, a status which it maintained throughout Roman times.
4 Then discovering students we abode with them for seven days, whom said to Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem.
Here it is apparent, that while Paul knew that he had to go to Jerusalem and possibly face great danger there, others also knew that Paul was endangered by going and out of good intentions they warned him not to go, apparently without understanding that Yahweh’s plans for Paul would prevail in spite of the temporal cares and concerns for his safety. Paul did realize as much, and therefore he went up to Jerusalem regardless of the warnings.
5 And when it came for us to finish the days, departing we went, all of them escorting us with women and children as far as outside of the city, and kneeling upon the shore praying 6 we saluted each other and boarded into the ship, and they returned to their own affairs.
That these early Christians had a tendency to pray together before parting ways is also observed by Luke when Paul and Barnabas separated from the main body of Christians for their first journeyfrom Antioch in Acts chapter 13, and again in Acts chapter 20 when Paul departed from Miletus.
7 And we completing the voyage from Turos arrived [A and E have “landed”] in Ptolemaïsand greeting the brethren stayed with them for one day.
It is nearly thirty miles by airtraveling south on the coast of Palestine from Tyre to Ptolemaïs. Originally called Antiocheia Ptolemaïs from shortly after the Greek conquest, the name was later shortened to Ptolemaïs, which was the ancient city known as Accho (Acco) in the King James Version of the Bible at Judges 1:31, the site of Acre today.
Josephus' Wars of the Judaeans, 2:188: “This Ptolemais is a maritime city of Galilee, built in the great plain. It is surrounded with mountains: that on the east side, about eight miles off, belongs to Galilee; but that on the south belongs to Carmel, which is fifteen miles distant from it; and that on the north is the highest of them all, and is called by the people of the country, 'The Ladder'' of the Tyrians, which is at the distance of twelve and a half miles.”
8 And on the next day departing we came into Caesareia and entering into the house of Philippos the preacher of the good message, being from of the seven, we stayed with him.
The Majority Text begins verse 8 “Departing Paul and those with him came into Caesareia”. As we have already explained in our presentation of Acts chapter 10, Herod had rebuilt a place called Strato's Tower, which was a short distance south of ancient Dor, and he renamed it Caesareia in honor of Augustus Caesar. It was sometimes called Caesareia Maritima, being on the sea, to distinguish it from other towns bearing the same name. This Caesareia was the administrative center of the province of Judaea for the Romans, and the place where Paul was to be held as a prisoner for several years, as we shall see in the later chapters of Acts. Caesareia is aboutthirty miles south of Ptolemaïs by air.
That Philip was a “preacher of the good message”, it was decided to translate the Greek word from which we have the term evangelist. I must apologize for entertaining the thought, when I presented Acts chapter 16 here last month, that perhaps this Philip was the apostle, because the apostle Philip was last mentioned at the end of Acts chapter 8 where he was recorded as having been in this same town. However this Philip, who is said to be “from of the seven”, therefore musthave been the Philip who is listed as one of those men chosen for the service to thatearly assembly of Christians as it is described at Acts 6:3-5. The events of Acts chapter 6 occurred over twenty years earlier than Paul's stay in Caesareia which is being described here.
9 And with him there were four maiden daughters who prophesy.
The King James Version is correct in describing the daughters of Philip as virgins, either word. maiden or virgin, being a proper translation of the Greek word παρθένος (3933). While today the idea may be novel or even amusing to many people, in the ancient world and throughout most of history unmarried women were expected to be virgins. If they were not virgins, then they must have been married. [The Christogenea New Testament purposely employed the word maiden in order to provide an opportunity for such an illustration.]
10 And upon abiding [א has “their abiding”, E and the MT “our abiding”, the text follows A, B, and C] many days there came down from Judaea a certain prophet named Hagabos, 11 and coming to us and taking Paul’s belt, binding his own feet and hands said “Thus says the Holy Spirit: the man whose belt this is, thusly the Judaeans in Jerusalem shall bind and they shall deliver him into the hands of the heathens.”
While we cannot be entirely certain, it is very possible that this Hagabos is also the same man who is mentioned in Acts 11:28, where it says “And there arose one of them named Hagabos who indicated through the Spirit that a great famine is going to come upon the whole inhabited world, which happened in the time of Klaudios.” As for their “abiding many days” in Caesareia, it is evident that while still in Anatolia Paul sought to make it to Jerusalem before the Pentecost, the journey was made in sufficient time to afford him some leisure.
Concerning the prophecy of Hagabos, that the Judaeans would bind Paul and “deliver him into the hands of the heathens”, the Greek word ἔθνος (1484) may have just as well been translated as peoplein this passage.The King James Version of course has “Gentiles”, and most commentators would insist that the word should be interpreted as if it referred to so-called “non-Jews”. However it is highly unlikely that gentiles, in the sense of non-Judaeans, could have been meant by Hagabos' use of the word. If that were the case, and if Paul had really understood the term in that manner, then he would probably not have responded by saying that he was willing “not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem”. Being a Roman citizen, Paul certainly knew that if he were delivered to the Romans he could not be executed without an appeal to Caesar in Rome, which is what actually happened. Therefore Paul must have understood Hagabos' use of the term ἔθνος to refer to people in Jerusalem, which is fully evident in his response. Thusly do the Judaized denominational interpreters destroy the context and sense of many words in the Bible.
12 And as we heard these things, both we and they of the place exhorted him for which not to go up to Jerusalem.
Luke certainly infers that he personally, as well as the other men who came from Miletus with them, had attempted to convince Paul not to go to Jerusalem.
13 Then Paul responded “What do you do, weeping and breaking my heart? For I not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem readily hold fast on behalf of the Name of Prince Yahshua!” 14 And upon his not being persuaded we kept silence, saying that the will of the Prince must be.
As Luke recorded it, Paul first expressed his resolution to go to Jerusalem in Acts chapter 19, even before the trouble in Ephesus which was caused by the silversmiths, and well over a year before he actually made this journey. Acts 19:21, from the King James Version: “ 21 After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” There was, evidently, no talking him out of going to Jerusalem regardless of the consequences.
15 Then after those days getting prepared we went up to Jerusalem, 16 and the students from Caesareia came with us, bringing Mnason [אhas “Iason”] a certain Kupriot, a student from the beginning with whom we would lodge. 17 And upon our coming into Jerusalem, the brethren gladly accepted us.
While nothing else is known of Mnason, who must have had a house or other dwelling in or near to Jerusalem, his name comes from a Greek word which means remembering. The distance from Caesareia to Jerusalem being at least 75 miles, it probably took at least three full days to make the journey.
18 And on the next day Paul went in with us to Iakobos, and all the elders were present.
This Iakobos is the apostle James, the writer of the epistle and the half-brother of Christ by his mother Mary (i.e. Matthew 13:55). These elders are not necessarily the other apostles, none of whom are mentioned by name after Acts chapter 15, except for James. After the decision of the apostles described in that chapter, when it was to be reported to the Christians of Antioch and to the other assemblies, Luke wrote in Acts 16:4 that “And as they passed through the cities, they transmitted to them to keep the opinions decided by the ambassadors and elders who are in Jerusalem,” by which he apparently distinguished the apostles from the “elders”. This is now about ten years after the events of Acts 15, which occurred in 47 AD.
19 And greeting them he explained about each one of those things which Yahweh had done among the Nations through his ministry.
This must have been a lengthy explanation, since it had been ten years since Paul had seen James in Jerusalem. However he may have seen some of them in Antioch, where it is recorded that he visited there in Acts chapter 18, where he had then written in his epistle to the Galatians that “11 But when Kephas had come to Antiocheia, I had confronted him personally because he was condemning himself: 12 for before some who were to come from Iakobos [or James], he had eaten in common with the Nations, but when they came he withdrew and separated himself, being in fear of those of the circumcised” (Galatians 2:10-11). The so-called “circumcised” Paul wrote about in that epistle to the Galatians are the very elders whom Paul is meeting with here.
20 And those hearing it extolled Yahweh [D and the MT have “extolled the Lord”] and said [C, D, and the MT have “saying”] to him: “You consider, brethren, how many myriads there are among the Judaeans who are believing, and all being zealous of the law.
The Codex Sinaiticus (א) wants the phrase “among the Judaeans”; the Codex Bezae has “in Judaea”; the Majority Text has “of the Judaeans”; the text agrees withthe Codices Alexandrinus (A), Vaticanus (B), Ephraemi Syri (C) and Laudianus (E). These are those people who are later called Ebionite Christians, and their numbers were evidently considerable, since the Greek word μυριάς, only transliterated here, literally means ten thousand, and it is used in the plural.
The word ebionite comes from the Hebrew word ebiown, אביון, Strong's Hebrew lexicon # 34, a word which means poor or destitute. One reason Paul had made this journey to Jerusalem was to deliver a gift of money to the poor of the saints there, which he also explained in his second epistle to the Corinthians. This can be found in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9. We have shown that this epistle was written during Paul's journey from Makedonia to Achaia a year before this time, as he planned to make this trip to Jerusalem for that very purpose. He also professes as much in Acts 24:17, where after being arrested he says that his purpose for coming to Jerusalem was, in part, that “after many years I came making acts of charity and offerings to my nation”.
While we cannot agree with everything that the earliest Christian writers say about the various sects of Christianity, since they quite often do not even agree with each other, here are a few passages related to the Ebionites:
From the late second century Christian writer Irenaeus, from his Against Heresies, Book 1 Chapter 25: “Those who are called Ebionites agree that the world was made by God; but their opinions with respect to the Lord are similar to those of Cerinthus and Carpocrates. They use the Gospel according to Matthew only, and repudiate the Apostle Paul, maintaining that he was an apostate from the law. As to the prophetical writings, they endeavour to expound them in a somewhat singular manner: they practise circumcision, persevere in the observance of those customs which are enjoined by the law, and are so Judaic in their style of life, that they even adore Jerusalem as if it were the house of God. ” [Roberts, A. (1997). The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. I : Translations of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325. The apostolic fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus.] Later, in Book 3 of that same work, in Chapter 21, Irenaeus explains that following after certain other heretics, the Ebionites even denied the Divinity of Christ and the Virgin Birth, where he says “ The Ebionites, following these, assert that He was begotten by Joseph; thus destroying, as far as in them lies, such a marvellous dispensation of God, and setting aside the testimony of the prophets which proceeded from God. ”
The third century Christian writer Origen, in Book 5 of his Against Celsus, writes “For there are certain heretical sects which do not receive the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, as the two sects of Ebionites, and those who are termed Encratites. ” [Roberts, A. (1997). The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV : Translations of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325. Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second.] Irenaeus also mentioned the Encratites (a name from a Greek word meaning self-control), who forbade marriage and encouraged abstinence from eating meat. Here we see from Origen that in his time the Ebionites were divided.
It is fully apparent, that the men in the company of the apostle James, whom Luke calls “elders” here in verse 18 were among those same men “of the circumcision” sent from James to Antioch and whom Peter was in fear of, as Paul described in Galatians chapter 2. It is also apparent that these men were spiritual leaders of “myriads ... among the Judaeans who are believing, ... all being zealous of the law”, which we see here in verse 20. Therefore it can rather justly be concluded that this was indeed the birthplace of what later became known as Ebionite Christianity, a sect which, while they were apparently ostracized from traditional Judaism, would nevertheless maintain Judaean Christians as a special class amongst Christians through a keeping of the circumcision and the other rituals of the Mosaic Law, as well as the maintenance of the Levitical priesthood which dispensed those things. It is further apparent, that Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews, which was ostensibly written shortly after these episodes and while Paul was under arrest in Caesareia, represents his answer to these people in regard to the Law, the Prophets, and the nature of the Christ, among other things.
The veracity of this interpretation is made even more plausible once it is realized that at this time James was certainly not an obscure person. His death was noted by the historian Flavius Josephus in the twentieth book of his Antiquities of the Judaeans. There Josephus records James' having been martyred in the period immediately following the death of the Roman procurator Festus, who was the man who had sent Paul in bonds to Rome in perhaps 59, or more likely in 60 AD, and who himself had died while still in that same office, in 62 AD. At this time an intemperate high priest named Ananus, a son of the elder Ananus who is the Sadducee mentioned often in Scripture, took advantage of the death of Festus by slaughtering James and other Christians before a new procurator arrived from Rome. Josephus writes thusly:
Josephus, Antiquities of the Judaeans, 20:197-204 (20:9:1): 197 And now Caesar, upon hearing the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as procurator; but the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus. 198 Now the report goes, that this oldest Ananus proved a most fortunate man; for he had five sons who had all performed the office of a high priest to God, and who had himself enjoyed that dignity a long time formerly, which had never happened to any other of our high priests; 199 but this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Judaeans, as we have already observed; 200 when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity [to exercise his authority]. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or some of his companions]; and, when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: 201 but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king [Agrippa], desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for what he had already done was not to be justified; 202 nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a Sanhedrin without his consent; 203 whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which King Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest. 204 Now, as soon as Albinus had come to the city of Jerusalem, he used all his endeavours and care that the country might be kept in peace, and this by killing many of the Sicarii...” [We shall see in Acts chapter 22 that Paul is even confused for one of these Sicarii, who were bandits.]
21 And they are informed [D has “and they inform”] concerning you, that you teach departure from Moses for the Judaeans throughout all [A and E want “all”] the Nations, saying for them not to circumcise the children nor to walk in the customs.
Rather than “to walk in the customs”, the Codex Bezae (D) has “to walk among His nations.” The NA27 marks this as “an accurate transcription of an apparently absurd reading”. In the Dative plural customs is ἔθεσιν, and nations ἔθνεσιν, a difference of one letter.
22 So what is it? By all means they shall hear that you have come.
The Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Bezae (D), Laudianus (E) and the Majority Text have this verse: “So what is it? By all means there is need for a multitude to gather, for they shall hear that you have come.” The text follows the Codices Vaticanus (B) and Ephraemi Syri (C).
As we have seen in our presentation of Acts chapter 15, James fully agreed with Peter where ten years before this time it was decided by the apostles that Christians from among the nations should not be compelled to the circumcision nor to keep the laws of Moses, except for a couple of things – such as the admonishments to keep certain of the food laws and to abstain from fornication – things which James must have felt transcended the Mosaic Law.
Peter made a telling statement at Acts 15:11, where he said “But through the favor of Prince Yahshua we [meaning the Judaeans] trust to be saved by the manner as they also.” This indicates that Peter agreed in principle with things which Paul often taught in his epistles, that salvation was not by the law and that there was no difference between Judaean Christians and those from among the nations. However in Galatians chapter 2, in an epistle which was written at a point between the events of Acts 15 and those recorded here, Paul accuses Peter of vacillating on this issue, on account of “those of the circumcision” who were sent to Antioch from James. This certainly happened as Paul was visiting Antioch for the last time, which is recorded in Acts chapter 18, and some time after Paul himself had circumcised Timothy for the same reasons, “on account of the Judaeans”, which was related at the opening of Acts chapter 16.
It cannot be told when James actually wrote the single surviving epistle which is accredited to him. In this epistle, writing to “the twelve tribes scattered abroad”, James certainly does display his expectation that Christians from among the Nations abide in the “implanted Word which is able to save your souls”, which is in what is now chapter 1 of the epistle. Referring to the “implanted Word” James was certainly referringnot to the Mosaic Law, but to the Law written in their hearts, which was prophesied in Jeremiah 31:33 and mentioned also by Paul at Romans 2:15 and 6:15. With this reference to the “implanted Word” and a later reference to the “perfect law of freedom”, as we see later in chapter 2 of James' epistle, James is certainly still in agreement with what was decided in Acts chapter 15 concerning the Christians from among the nations and the Mosaic Law.
Many commentators want to uphold the notion that James was criticizing Paul where he said at the end of chapter 2 of that epistle, “26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” There James seems to be saying that the works, or deeds, which he expects Christians to perform are those related to loving our brethren as we love ourselves, and not related to the rituals of the law. In that chapter the theme is the respect of the status of persons, and James is teaching that we should seek to uplift our lesser brethren, and not seek to curry the favor of the wealthy at the expense of our lesser brethren. However while this is certainly sound Christian teaching, it is not truly addressing the teachings of Paul. While Paul taught the relinquishing of the “works of the law”, which is a reference to the rituals of the Mosaic Law, Paul also very frequently mentioned the need for Christians to perform good deeds for one another as a result of their faith. For instance, Paul said in Hebrews chapter 10, which was an epistle that James must have read: “23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works”. So while James may have been addressing a misunderstanding of Paul's teachings, either by himself or by others, he and Paul were actually in agreement on these matters as well.
The only notable point of difference in Christian doctrine between Paul and James is found here in Acts chapter 21, and that is whether Judaean Christians should adhere to the circumcision and to the other rituals of the Mosaic Law. Paul taught that they should depart, which, as we explained at length while presenting our presentation of Acts chapter 15, would facilitate the fulfillment of the “one stick” prophecy found in Ezekiel chapter 37. James taught that they should keep the traditions and therefore they would remain distinct. However thereby, we would assert that the “one-stick” prophecy of Ezekiel could not be fulfilled. It was not meant to be, and Ebionite Christianity eventually faded into oblivion. However the pharisaism behind it clearly permeated the Roman Church throughout later history.
23 Therefore do this which we say to you. There are among us four men having a vow upon [א and B have “by”] themselves. 24 Taking them you must be purified with them and pay the expense for them that they shave their heads, and all shall know that that which they are informed concerning you is nothing, but that you yourself also walk in line keeping the law.
In these verses, we have James, or perhaps both James and the elders who were with him, requiring Paul to undergo a certain purification ritual in the temple as a sort of suggestion to the people concerned that Paul himself has continued to adhere to the Mosaic Law. It seems from the observation that there were so many of the faith in Jerusalem who were zealous of the law, which is stated in verse 20, and then by the statement that “By all means they shall hear that you have come” found in verse 22, this demand is being made with the hope that its fulfillment would calm the excitement these people may have upon seeing Paul, since they had despised him for the things which he was teaching concerning the Law.
25 And concerning those of the Nations who believe, we deciding have commanded them to avoid both that which is sacrificed to idols and blood and strangled and fornication.”
Here is an affirmation of that decision by the apostles in relation to Christians from among the nations, as it was originally made during the events which were recorded in Acts chapter 15. There are six different readings of the second half of this verse amongst the six oldest codices which are regularly cited here and the Majority Text (only א and A agree). None of them significantly change the sense of what is expressed in the text except perhaps that the Codex Bezae wants the mention of things strangled.
26 Then Paul taking the men on the following day being purified with them, went into the temple giving notice of the fulfillment of the days of purification until when the offering is offered on behalf of each one of them.
While Paul had already rejected the necessity for any Christian to keep the Mosaic Law throughout his epistles, here he nevertheless accedes to James' demands, and goes to the temple for the ritual. This Judaean purification ritual in the temple almost certainly included an immersion, or baptism, in water. It also included an offering, which is explicit in the text here. Yet aside from the “one-stick” prophecy of Ezekiel chapter 37, it is evident that James and the others with him could not have fully understood the prophecy concerning the Messiah found in Daniel chapter 9, which also said that such things would cease.
Daniel 9:27: “And he [meaning the Messiah of Daniel 9:26] shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” Now Yahweh made the sanctuary permanently desolate in 70 AD when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, however Paul was far ahead of James and these others in his understanding of the law and the prophets, and the words of Christ Himself.
It is evident that Paul did what James and these others had insisted, and ostensibly, he did it out of deference to his elders, whether he personally agreed with them or not, as Paul had once before submitted himself to the decision of the apostles, which is recorded in Acts chapter 15.
Yet it is evident that perhaps Paul's undergoing a ritual to which he must have also submitted himself earlier in life would not matter. Paul already expressed the concept that one should stay in that manner in which he was born and raised, in his epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 7:20), yet newly born children (which are mentioned here in Acts 21:21 where it was said that Paul taught Judaeans not to circumcise their children) are not born under the Old Covenant, but under the New Covenant, while Christians from among the nations were born in apostasy. Paul was called in Judaism, keeping the Law and its rituals. To this we may compare his comments to the Corinthians, which were made several years earlier while he was still in Ephesus:
1 Corinthians 7: “20 Each in the calling in which he has been called, in this he must abide. 21 A bondman, you have been called? It must not be a concern to you, but then if you have the ability to become free, rather you use it. 22 For he who is called a bondman in the Prince is a freedman of the Prince; likewise he who is called free is a bondman of Christ. 23 You have been purchased for a price, you should not become slaves of men. 24, Each in that which he has been called, brethren, in that he must remain before Yahweh.”
27 And as the seven days were about to be completed, the Judaeans from Asia seeing him in the temple confused all the crowd and laid the hands upon him 28 crying out “Men, Israelites, help! This is the man who against the people and the law and this place is teaching all everywhere, and further also has brought Greeks into the temple and profaned this holy place!”
The Judaeans from Asia seem to be those from Ephesus, who were in the theater when the trouble with the silversmiths occurred. Acts 19: “33 And from the crowd they brought up Alexandros, the Judaeans putting him forth, and Alexandros motioning with the hand wished to speak in defense to the people. 34 But recognizing that he is a Judaean, one voice arose from all, crying out for about two hours 'Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!'” As we remarked when presenting Acts chapter 19, Alexandros and the Judaeans were not friendly to Christianity, and this Alexandros may well have been the man whom Paul called a blasphemer in his epistle to Timothy, which was written a short time after he left Ephesus. The same Alexander, “the coppersmith”, is again mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:14, an epistle which Paul does not write until he gets to Rome.
The accusation that Paul brought Greeks into the temple is not necessarily true. As we said in our Acts chapter 10 presentation, “At this time, there were warning signs around the temple in Jerusalem, threatening death to anyone who was not a Judaean who dared to enter. All or part of at least such two inscriptions have been found, which stated in Greek that “No foreigner may enter within the railing and enclosure that surround the Temple. Anyone apprehended shall have himself to blame for his consequent death!” (There is a copy of this temple warning posted at Christogenea.org.) However at that time the term Judaean was not a racial or national but more of a religious designation, which would have included any circumcised Israelite, Edomite, or other convert, since Judaea had become a multicultural, ethnically diverse political entity.” See Biblical Archaeology Review, July-August 2003, p. 36.
[There is a sharp contrast of the attitudes of the Judaeans of this era to those of an earlier one, where when Alexander the Great came into Jerusalem the city welcomed him with all honor, and Alexander was invited into the temple for a sacrifice to Yahweh, which is described in Josephus’ Antiquities 11.8.5 (11:329-339).]
29 For they had before seen Trophimos the Ephesian in the city with him, whom they [D has “we”, obviously an error] believed that Paul had brought into the temple.
Here we have an apparent conflict: for on the surface this statement concerning Trophimus and Paul's attestation in 2 Timothy 4:20 concerning Trophimus, where he says that he left had him behind in Miletus, seem to be irreconcilable.. Here it shall be shown that either Paul made a previous trip with Trophimus to Jerusalem at least several years before this (during his three year sojourn in Ephesus) which is unrecorded elsewhere but which is what Luke is referencing here (and which is more than likely the case), or there is an interpolation either here or in 2 Timothy. However the apparent conflict and its true understanding are even more complex than that.
First, we need sufficient background information. From Paul's own writing, we have the following facts:
Timothy was at some point under arrest with Paul, as can be told from the last verses of Hebrews chapter 13. Therefore Timothy must have already been aware of many of the circumstances of Paul's ministry.
There is no doubt that the second epistle to Timothy was written from Rome, which Paul explicitly indicates at 2 Timothy 1:17, and indirectly indicates in 2 Timothy 4:6-7. Here we will cite 2 Timothy 1:16-18: “16 The Prince should give mercy to the house of Onesiphoros, because often he refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, 17 but being in Rome eagerly sought and found me. 18 The Prince should give to him to find appropriate mercy in that day. And how much he has served in Ephesos, you would know better.”
This last statement at verse 18, as well as secondary evidence in the subscripts to this epistle, indicate that Timothy was actually in Ephesus, and that he was an overseer, or “bishop”, of the Christian assembly there. [The subscripts to Paul's epistles are correctly deemed to have been written by later hands, and they often vary significantly from one manuscript to another.] Paul's statements at 2 Timothy 4:6-7 indicate that he believed that he was near the end of his life, and one version of the subscripts even goes so far as to state that he had already stood before Nero twice, although I would not accept that statement without much investigation. Elsewhere there is sure evidence that Paul did write epistles after he defended himself before Nero, which is in the first chapter of his epistle to the Philippians which was also written from Rome.
At the end of his second epistle to Timothy, in 2 Timothy 4:20, Paul states that “Trophimos I left behind in Miletos, being sick.” Once the history of these epistles is properly understood, when and where each of them were written, this statement seems to be out of place because Paul must have written 2 Timothy at least three years, and perhaps even four years after he had departed from Miletus, and the epistle to the Hebrews indicates that Timothy was probably already familiar with all of this. However the statement is justified once one realizes that throughout 2 Timothy Paul reflects upon many of the people associated with the last years of his ministry, and may have only mentioned all of them so that Timothy would be reminded of all of them, and where they stood in relation to Paul's ministry, that Timothy would read these things to the entire assembly once he received this epistle, as it was customary to do so at the time(Colossians 4:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:27). In that manner, the entire assembly in Ephesus would be informed as to how each of these men stood with Paul, and they would hear it directly.
Seeing all of these things from Paul's epistles, we may make the following assessment of Luke's statement here in Acts 20:29:
Here in Acts chapter 20, it is only recorded that Paul arrived in Jerusalem and went to see James, and not that he ever went to the temple before going to see James. Therefore it is evident that there was not yet any opportunity on this visit to Jerusalem for any Judaeans to have seen Paul with Trophimus in the temple.
This is the time of the feast of Pentecost, and under the Mosaic law it is one of the feasts upon which all Israelite men are commanded to appear in Jerusalem. That the Judaeans continued to obey these laws is clear in the Gospel accounts and in Acts chapter 2. These men from Asia are here for the feast, just as Paul had desired to be here for the feast, a fact noted by Luke in the preceding chapters of Acts. So we see that the Judaeans from Ephesus have most likely been attending these feasts in Jerusalem regularly, as the law requires, and that is why they are there to accuse Paul at this very time.
With all of this, it can only be concluded, that where Luke says “For they had before seen Trophimos the Ephesian in the city with him”, that Paul also must have traveled to these feasts while he spent three years in Ephesus, but Luke, who was not with Paul from the time Paul left him in Philippi (Acts chapter 16) to the time he met him in the Troad (Acts chapter 20) simply did not record any of these trips. Therefore Paul must have visited Jerusalem from Ephesus for the feasts, as the other Judaeans in Ephesus also did, and he must have brought Trophimus along with him on one of those earlier trips, and that is what Luke is referencing here. With this evidence, and in that manner, there is no conflict with this statement here in Acts and Paul's statement concerning Trophimus in 2 Timothy 4:20. Indeed, according to the laws at the time, if Trophimus were found in Jerusalem with Paul here in Acts chapter 21, he would be standing trial for a capital offense upon being accused of entering the temple. Rather, Luke is referring to an earlier unrecorded trip to Jerusalem where Trophimus must have accompanied Paul to the city, perhaps even three or four years earlier than this event, and Trophimus is not here at the present time.
[A proper understanding of the events of Acts is only attainable once one realizes that the records are far from complete, and once one properly synthesizes the information in Paul's epistles with the accounts which are in Acts. To accomplish such a thing, one must first break loose the shackles of all the typical Judeo-Christian presumptions. For instance, the first time that a commentator mentions the “three missionary journeys of Paul”, he displays the fact that his view of the Book of Acts is based upon false premises, and that his knowledge is incomplete. Therefore he is really only parroting something which he learned second-hand and which itself is based upon incorrect premises.]
30 Then the whole city was aroused, and there was a tumultuous concourse of the people, and seizing Paul they dragged him outside of the temple and immediately closed the doors. 31 And seeking to kill him, a report went up to the commander of the cohort that the whole of Jerusalem was in confusion, 32 who at once taking soldiers and centurions ran down to them, and they seeing the commander and the soldiers stopped beating Paul.
We have already described the signs posted around the temple at Jerusalem at this time, which warned that any non-Judaean entering into the temple would be punished with a penalty of death. This would include any man who was not circumcised. Here the jealousy which the Judaeans had for the temple and for their own religious exclusivity is revealed, and such a charge would indeed incite the people to riot.
Because Judaism was rather prone to the reproach of the pagan Romans who were greatly in the majority and who obviously commanded the empire, the Judaeans were constantly on guard against encroachments upon their temple. One example of another such riot not long before this very time is described in the second book of Josephus’ Wars.
Josephus, Wars of the Judaeans, 2.223-227 (2.12.1): “223 Now after the death of Herod, king of Chalcis, Claudius set Agrippa [II], the son of Agrippa [I, whose death is recorded in Acts chapter 12], over his uncle's kingdom, while Cumanus took upon him the office of procurator of the rest, which was a Roman province, and therein he succeeded Alexander; under which Cumanus began the troubles, and the Judaeans ruin came on; 224 for when the multitude were come together to Jerusalem, to the feast of unleavened bread, and a Roman cohort stood over the cloisters of the temple, (for they always were armed and kept guard at the festivals, to prevent any sedition which the multitude thus gathered together might make,) one of the soldiers pulled back his garment, and cowering down after an indecent manner, turned his breech to the Jews, and spoke such words as you might expect upon such a posture. [So we see how ancient the lewd and rude tradition really is, which is still rather popular today.] 225 At this the whole multitude had indignation, and made a clamour to Cumanus that he would punish the soldier; while the rasher part of the youth, and such as were naturally the most tumultuous, fell to fighting, and caught up stones, and threw them at the soldiers. 226 Upon which Cumanus was afraid lest all the people should make an assault upon him, and sent to call for more armed men, who, when they came in great numbers into the cloisters, the Judaeans were in a very great consternation; and being beaten out of the temple, they ran into the city; 227 and the violence with which they crowded to get out was so great, that they trod upon each other, and squeezed one another, till ten thousand of them were killed, insomuch that this feast became the cause of mourning to the whole nation, and every family lamented [their own relatives].” Cumanus was procurator of Judaea not long before Felix, whom we know from Acts chapters 23 through 25. So we see that from one episode of agitation by a Roman soldier, a tumult occurred and ten thousand people perished. From this we also may perceive that many hundreds of thousands of people were attending these feasts. This could not have happened long before this very time recorded here in Acts chapter 21, perhaps only a couple of years.
Therefore we see how possible it is, that merely hearing an accusation that Paul defiled the temple by bringing one of the uncircumcised into it, without a trial or any evidence the Judaeans are incited to riot, and would kill Paul even before hearing a defense.
33 Then approaching the commander took him and ordered him to be bound with two chains, and inquired who he may be and what it is that he was doing. 34 But others among the crowd called out something different. And upon his not being able to know with certainty because of the tumult, he ordered him to be brought into the encampment.
As we saw in Ephesus, Paul's adversaries were always quick to accuse him and therefore never had their stories straight.
The word translated as commander everywhere here is χιλίαρχος (5506). It is literally aleader of a thousand, and a step up the ladder of command from a centurion, which is a leader of a hundred. A chiliarch is the equivalent Greek word to the Latin tribune, of which there were generallyonly six to each legion. The Greek word παρεμβολή (3925) is an encampment here and throughout the rest of Acts, a word which may have been rendered as fortress.
35 And when he came to the stairs it happened to him to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd, 36 for the multitude of the people followed crying out “Kill him!”
The phrase αἶρε αὐτόν is rendered here as “kill him”, but perhaps, as the King James Version has it here, it may have literally been rendered “away with him”. This same verb appears at Luke 23:18, and also at Acts 12:19, where in each version it is rendered either literally as “away with” or allegorically as “kill”.
With this we shall suspend our presentation of Acts chapter 28, since the last paragraph of the chapter is better presented along with Acts chapter 29.