The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Tuesday, May 17: Father Callan’s Commentary on Today’s First Reading (Acts 11:19-26)

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 16, 2011

19. Now they who had been dispersed by the persecution that arose on occasion of Stephen, went about as far as Phenice and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to none, but to the Jews only.

St. Luke now resumes the narrative interrupted at Acts 8:4, where he had begun to give the history and the events connected with the disciples who had been dispersed on the occasion of St. Stephen’s martyrdom.

Phenice or Phoenicia was the narrow strip of land bordering on the Mediterranean to the northwest of Palestine. It extended from Carmel on the south to the river Eleutherus (Nahr-el-Keber) on the north, and was part of the Roman province of Syria. Its chief cities were Tyre and Sidon. Cyprus, the island in the Mediterranean west of Phoenicia, was at this time a center of great commercial importance. Antioch was the capital of Syria situated on the river Orontes. It was the gateway to the East, and the residence of the Proconsul of Syria. For a time it was the center of the Christian community converted from paganism. Speaking the word; i.e., the Gospel.

20. But some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they were entered into Antioch, spoke also to the Greeks, preaching the Lord Jesus.
21. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believing, were converted to the Lord.

Some of the Christians who were dispersed by the persecution were Hellenists from Cyprus and Cyrene, i.e., Jews who had been bom and brought up among the pagans. As soon as these had heard of the happenings at Caesarea they began to preach the Gospel to the Greeks (ελληνιστας, according to the best MSS.) at Antioch.

22. And the tidings came to the ears of the church that was at Jerusalem, touching these things: and they sent Barnabas as far as Antioch.
23. Who, when he was come, and had seen the grace of God, rejoiced: and he exhorted them all with purpose of heart to continue in the Lord.
24. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith. And a great multitude was added to the Lord.

Barnabas, who was a native of Cyprus and consequently a Hellenist. He knew better than a native-born Jew how to deal with Gentile converts.

25. And Barnabas went to Tarsus to seek Saul: whom, when he had found, he brought to Antioch.
26. And they conversed there in the church a whole year; and they taught a great multitude, so that at Antioch the disciples were first named Christians.

After encountering trouble at Jerusalem, Paul retired to Tarsus, his native city. Barnabas knew of Paul’s conversion and the mission which God had given him, and so he made a three days’ journey from Antioch to Tarsus, found Paul and brought him to Antioch. There Paul and Barnabas labored for a whole year, instructing and converting the pagans to Christianity. So great was the number of these pagan converts that they soon formed a society distinct from the Jews whose center was the Synagogue, and to this new society, professing the religion of Christ, was given for the first time the name Christians, i.e., followers of Christ and His doctrine.

2 Responses to “Tuesday, May 17: Father Callan’s Commentary on Today’s First Reading (Acts 11:19-26)”

  1. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Today’s First Reading (Acts 11:19-26). Will become available Monday, 12:05 AM EST. […]

  2. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Today’s First Reading (Acts 11:19-26). […]

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