Paul and Barnabas in Antioch
Verse 14: but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. (NRSV)
- This lecture was not to Gentiles, even though he was in a city that was largely Gentile. This was in a synagogue, to Jewish believers and seekers.
- This was the standard way that Paul was to evangelize in every city but Athens (Longenecker 218). Talk to the synagogue, and then the Gentiles afterwards.
Verse 15: After the reading of the law and the prophets, the officials of the synagogue sent them a message, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, give it.” (NRSV)
- This is a definite parallel to Jesus' first time speaking in a synagogue in Luke (Johnson 230).
- Paul was asked to speak, possibly because the leaders knew his or Gamaliel's reputation and wanted to hear from him. It is possible (though unlikely) that the Jews did not know that Paul had converted yet.
Verse 26: “My brothers, you descendants of Abraham's family, and others who fear God, to use the message of this salvation has been sent. (NRSV)
- Paul here makes a distinction between normal Gentiles and “God-fearing” ones.
- Non-God fearing Gentiles are not mentioned here as being people to whom God's message has been sent.
- This can be partly explained because Paul is speaking in a Jewish synagogue here, and therefore is talking most about the audience in front of him.
Verse 29: When they had carried out everything that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. (NRSV)
- The rulers and people are not presented as doing what they did on their own volition, but instead they are presented as fulfilling prophecy through their actions and in the end being directed by that instead of by themselves.
Verse 31: and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, and they are now his witnesses to the people. (NRSV)
- Paul makes a point here is saying that only those who were with Jesus before death saw him afterwards.
Verse 39: by this Jesusg everyone who believes is set free from all those sinsh from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. (NRSV)
- The benefit of the gospel here is not that Jesus forgives us easier than the Jewish law, or that he supersedes it, but that the gospel is more expansive and forgives elements that the Jewish gospel didn't.
Verse 42: As Paul and Barnabasi were going out, the people urged them to speak about these things again the next sabbath. (NRSV)
- It is interesting that the persecution of believers in Jerusalem was apparently so limited that even a city as close as Antioch could be welcoming and friendly to the Christian message.
- The "officials" asked Paul and Barnabas to speak. "The people" followed them out. This is a crucial distinction. The leaders probably didn't like what they had to say at all, but this does not become explicit until later.
Verse 43: When the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them and urged them to continue in the grace of God. (NRSV)
- The Jews there were not urged to convert, but to “continue” in the grace of God.
- Conversion is not mentioned here, but it is possible that these people converted during Paul's speech.
- It is also possible that this is an indication that the Jewish and Christian faith had not fully seperated yet, and that conversion as a seperate event was not yet required.
Verse 45: But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted what was spoken by Paul. (NRSV)
- The message is not what the Jews had problems with here, but the sheer popularity of the apostles.
- This change of heart so suddenly casts some doubt on the Jews' reasoning for listening to the apostles. Perhaps they saw the faith as a curiosity until it had the chance to overshadow them.
- If this event was being held in the synagogue, no wonder the leaders were upset because it was filled with Gentiles (Longenecker 225).
- The Jews here are recorded as blaspheming, which is the worst thing they could do. This is an indication that Christianity was starting to break away from Judaism as this blasphemy was almost certainly against Jesus and not God the father.
- This is not the technical term used of blasphemy, but the intent is the same (Johnson 240).
Verse 46: Then both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles. (NRSV)
- This is reminiscent of Jesus and the Canaanite woman of Matthew 15:21-27, that the Jews get the message first but everyone else gets it afterwards.
- The use of “Because” makes it clear that Paul is turning to the Gentiles for the primary reason that the Jews rejected his message (Johnson 241). So if the Jews didn't reject him, perhaps he never would have moved on.
- This verse doesn't mark a radical change from then on in direction for evangelism in Acts, but is how Paul will continue to witness (Fitzymyer 521).
Verse 48: When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the word of the Lord; and as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers. (NRSV)
- This verse is one of the most convincing verses for
predestination. It is about God literally placing or appointing, assigning people (GELNT 805). The word is a perfect passive participle, meaning they have been assigned their role and that it has a completed aspect, something done and continued.
- It is interesting that in the beginning of Acts, Luke mentions specific numbers of people who were saved. Here he only says “those who were appointed” which could indicate a lot less people got saved but that Luke does not see that as a failing of the message or speaker.
Verse 50: But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, and stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their region (NRSV)
- While the “God fearing Jews” are not mentioned as being women, they need women in order to kick the disciples out. Apparently the women had a lot of influence in the city, and in the circles of believers.
- There is a lot of questions here about how the Jews managed to drive them out, because they would not have had that much power. They needed the Romans to officially kick someone out.
Verse 51: So they shook the dust off their feet in protest against them, and went to Iconium (NRSV)
- Shaking the dust off of their feet was what Jews were expected to do when they left Gentile territory to go back to Palestine (Fitzmyer 522). That they did it when leaving a synagogue and leaving Jews is very telling.
- This is also an action that Jesus told the 72 to do when he sent them out into the world as well.
- This is an act of seperation, and that Paul and Barnabas did it to the Jews says that not only were the Jews removing themselves from the Christians, but that the Christians were actively seperating themselves as well.
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