(1) After we were gotten from them . . .—The Greek verb is more emphatic, and might almost be rendered, “When we had torn ourselves away from them.”
We came with a straight course unto Coos . . .—The navigation is, as before (Acts 20:14-15), from port to port. It would hardly be within the scope of a Commentary to enter at length into the history of each place. It will be enough to note that Coos was famous both for its wines and its silk fabrics, of fine and almost transparent tissue; that Rhodes, then famous for its Colossus, was one of the largest and most flourishing islands of the Archipelago, and is memorable for us in later history as connected with the history of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John; that Patara was a harbour on the coast of Lycia. For this harbour the ship in which the travellers had left Troas and Miletus was bound, and they had therefore to look out for another. Happily there was no long delay, and they embarked at once on a merchant-ship bound for Phœnicia.
The “seven days’ ” stay, as at Troas (see Note on Acts 20:6), and afterwards at Puteoli (Acts 28:14), was obviously for the purpose of attending one, or possibly more than one, meeting of the church for the Lord’s Supper on the Lord’s Day. The utterances through the Spirit implied the exercise of prophetic gifts at such a meeting. It seems, at first, somewhat startling that St. Paul should reject what is described as an inspired counsel; or, if we believe him also to have been guided by the Spirit, that the two inspirations should thus clash. We remember, however, that men received the Spirit “by measure,” and the prophets of the churches at Tyre, as elsewhere (Acts 20:23), though foreseeing the danger to which the Apostle was exposed, might yet be lacking in that higher inspiration which guided the decision of the Apostle, and which he himself defines as the spirit “of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). This is, it is believed, a much more adequate explanation than that which sees in the Apostle’s conduct a somewhat self-willed adherence to his own human purpose, and finds a chastisement for that self-will in the long delay and imprisonment that followed on the slighted warnings. He was right, we may boldly say, to go to Jerusalem in spite of consequences. The repeated warnings are, however, an indication of the exceeding bitterness of feeling with which the Judaisers and unbelieving Jews were known to be animated against him.
We kneeled down on the shore, and prayed.—The choice of the place was in itself natural enough. It was the spot where the two sets of friends were to part. It was removed from the stir and bustle of the city. We may add that it fell in with the common Jewish practice of using the banks of rivers or the seashore as a place of prayer. The beach of Tyre became for the time a proseuchè. (See Note on Acts 16:13.) It seems implied, from the use of the plural, that in this instance St. Paul was not the only spokesman of the prayers, but that others also (probably St. Luke himself, and the leading members of the Church of Tyre) joined in reciprocal intercession.
Came unto Cæsarea.—Comp. Acts 8:40; Acts 10:1. This was, it will be remembered, St. Paul’s third visit there (Acts 9:30; Acts 18:22), and we may well believe that he was simply renewing the intercourse of a previous friendship with Philip.
Philip the evangelist.—The title given to him is interesting as showing that the work of “serving tables,” i.e., of superintending the distribution of alms, had been merged in the higher work of a missionary preacher. (See Note on Acts 6:3.) He was no longer known, if, indeed, that title had ever been applied to him, as Philip the deacon, but as Philip the evangelist. The office so described is recognised by St. Paul in his enumeration of spiritual gifts and functions, in Ephesians 4:11, as coming next in order of importance to those of apostles and prophets, and before pastors and teachers. It would seem, accordingly, to have been distinct from the “orders,” in the later sense, of presbyter or deacon, though capable of being united with either of them. Timotheus was exhorted by St. Paul when he was left at Ephesus, with the authority of a bishop, or, more strictly, of a vicar apostolic, to “do the work of an evangelist,” as that to which he had been called (2 Timothy 4:5). It followed, from the nature of the office, as analogous to that of the missionary of later times, that, though residing mainly at Cæsarea, Philip’s labours extended beyond its limits; and we have seen reason to trace his work (see Notes on Acts 8:40; Acts 15:3; Acts 21:3; Acts 21:7) all along the coasts of Palestine and Phoenicia. As far as we know, Philip and St. Luke had not met before, and we can imagine the satisfaction with which the latter, himself, probably, an evangelist in both senses of the word (2 Corinthians 8:18), and already contemplating his work as an historian, would welcome the acquaintance of the former, how he would ask many questions as to the early history of the Church, and learn from him all, or nearly all, that we find in the first eleven chapters of this book.
Which was one of the seven.—We note how entirely the Seven of Acts 6:3 are regarded as a special or distinct body. If the term deacon had ever been applied to them, which is very doubtful, it ceased to be applicable by its wide extension to the subordinate functionaries of the churches throughout the empire.
How many thousands of Jews there are which believe.—Literally, how many myriads—i.e., tens of thousands. The numbers seem large if we think of the population of Jerusalem only, but the crowds that came from all quarters to the Feast of Pentecost (see Note on Acts 2:1) would fully justify the statement. The speaker here is obviously St. James, as the president of the assembly. There is no trace of the presence of any of the Apostles.
They are all zealous of the law.—Better, the word being a substantive and not an adjective, zealots for the law. The term was an almost technical one for the most rigid class of Pharisees. (See Note on Simon the Canaanite, Matthew 10:4.) So St. Paul describes himself as in this sense a “zealot” (Acts 22:3; Galatians 1:14).
That thou teachest all the Jews . . . to forsake Moses.—Literally, that thou teachest apostasy from Moses, the term used, with all its burden of evil import, adding weight to the charge.
Neither to walk after the customs.—On the general import of this phrase, as including the “traditions of the elders,” as well as the precepts of the Law, see Notes on Acts 6:14; Acts 15:1.
Be at charges with them . . .—Literally, spend money on them. This involved payment (1) for the act of shaving the head, for which probably there was a fixed fee to priest or Levite; (2) for the sacrifices which each Nazarite had to offer—sc., two doves or pigeons, a lamb, an ewe lamb, a ram, a basket of uneavened bread, a meat offering and a drink offering (Numbers 6:9-12).
The Jews which were of Asia . . .—Better, from Asia—those who had come up to keep the Feast at Jerusalem. They, we may well believe, had been watching the Apostle eagerly as he passed in and out of the courts of the Temple. As it was, they seized him, with all the tokens of his purification still upon him (comp. Acts 24:18), about to offer sacrifices, and raised a cry which was sure to throw the whole city into an uproar. They first reiterate the general charge, and in doing so bring against St. Paul, in almost identical terms, the very accusation which he had brought against Stephen (Acts 6:11-13), of which they thus make themselves the witnesses. This was backed up by a more specific indictment (Acts 21:28). He had brought Greeks—i.e., uncircumcised Gentiles—into the Holy Place—i.e., beyond the middle wall of partition (Ephesians 2:14) which divided the court that was open to strangers from that which none but Jews might enter (Jos. Ant. xv. 11, § 5). The recent excavations of the Palestine Exploration Society (Report for 1871, p. 132) have brought to light a slab with an inscription, discovered and deciphered by M. Clermont Ganneau, which illustrates the horror with which the Jews looked on such a profanation. Its contents show that it must have formed part of the low wall just mentioned:—“NO MAN OF ALIEN RACE IS TO ENTER WITHIN THE BALUSTRADE AND FENCE THAT GOES ROUND THE TEMPLE. IF ANY ONE IS TAKEN IN THE ACT, LET HIM KNOW THAT HE HAS HIMSELF TO BLAME FOR THE PENALTY OF DEATH THAT FOLLOWS.” This, accordingly, was the punishment which the Jews of Asia were now seeking to bring on St. Paul and on his friends.
Forthwith the doors were shut.—This was obviously the act of the Levite gate-keepers. The Apostle was dragged out, the crowd followed him, and they seized the opportunity to guard the sacred precincts against further profanation.
He commanded him to be carried into the castle.—The Greek, which literally means encampment, is translated “armies” in Hebrews 11:34. By a transition which reminds us of the connection between the words castrum and castellum, or castle, it came to be applied to a regular structure of stone or brick, such for example, as the Tower Antonia, described in the Note on Acts 21:31.
Four thousand men that were murderers.—Josephus, as has been said, gives a much larger number, but his statistics, in such cases, are never to be relied on. The word for murderer (sicarii, literally, dagger-bearers) was applied to the cut-throat bands who about this period infested well-nigh every part of Palestine, and who differed from the older robbers in being, like the Thugs in India, more systematically murderous (Jos. Wars, ii. 13, § 3). In the siege of Jerusalem, their presence, sometimes in alliance with the more fanatic of the zealots, tended to aggravate all its horrors.