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

Father Callan’s Commentary on Acts 14:19-28

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 21, 2011

The verse numbering of the version of Scripture Father Callan is using differs slightly from that of some modern translations. I’ve included he modern verse numbering in parentheses. Text in red represent my additions to his notes.

18 (19). Now there came thither certain Jews from Antioch, and Iconium: and persuading the multitude, and stoning Paul, drew him out of the city, thinking him to be dead.

Saints Paul and Barnabas are still in the cities of Lycaonia (see verse 6). There were doubtless some conversions made between the events recorded in this verse and those of the verses immediately preceding; hence some little time must have elapsed. Certain Jews from Antioch in Pisidia and from Iconium made a long journey to obstruct the good work of the Apostles. They attacked Paul and inflicted on him the punishment prescribed for blasphemy. St. Paul speaks of this stoning in 2 Cor 11:25.

Certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium. See Acts 13:50 and Acts 14:5.  Luke Timothy Johnson inserts an important point by noting that throughout Acts Luke’s narration minimizes local opposition to the Gospel by the Jews. Many were open to the message of the preaching and, no doubt, many who did not believe refrained from verbal abuse or physical violence. “Opposition appears as the vendetta of a small band of fanatics” (see L.T. Johnson, The Acts Of The Apostles, pgs. 252-253).

Persuading the multitude. Protestant commentator Craig S. Keener suggests that the pagan Lycaonians might have been easily swayed after the missionaries rejection of divine status, especially if the Jews were accusing them of charlatanism.  This strikes me as problematic for, certainly, charlatan’s would not have disabused the pagans concerning their assumed divine status as Paul and Barnabas had done with such vigor (Acts 14:14-18).  On the other hand, as Keener notes, mobs can be ‘fickle,” citing Luke 23:18 (see the IVP Biblical Background Commentary, page 363).

19 (20). But as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up and entered into the city, and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

The disciples; i.e., the Christians, thinking St. Paul dead, stood round to guard his body; but when the crowd had departed the Apostle rose up and reentered the city. This recovery of St. Paul is generally regarded as a great miracle, for he had been given up for dead; the healing of his wounds, at least, was miraculous.

Perhaps they feared his allegedly dead body would be desecrated, a sign of contempt in the ancient world. Possibly, their standing around indicates confusion and shock brought about by the event.

He rose up and entered into the city. Some see an allusion to Matt 27:52-53, but this seems unlikely to me.

20 (21). And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and to Antioch:
21 (22). Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith : and that through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.

After instructing many at Derbe the two Apostles went back to the cities where they had previously preached and suffered, in order to encourage the faithful there to continue in the faith and to bear their trials for God and His Kingdom.

The fact that St Paul re-entered the city whose inhabitants had stoned him (19), and subsequently returned to places where he had earlier suffered (20), indicates his resolve to enter the Kingdom of God through-and in spite of-many tribulations.  Saint Paul (and, obviously, St Barnabas as well) thus become examples to be imitated (see 1 Thess 1:6-7; 2 Tim 3:10-12).

Confirming the souls of the disciples. For St Paul this is an important pastoral activity (see Rom 1:11; 16:25; 1 Thess 3:2, 13; 2 Thess 2:17; 3:3).

22 (23). And when they had ordained to them priests in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, in whom they believed.

One of the principal reasons why Paul and Barnabas returned to the cities where they had preached was to establish and organize churches for the faithful and to ordain (χειροτονησαντες) priests for them. There is no doubt that there is question here of real ordination to the priesthood, because there was imposition of hands (χειροτονησαντες, literally, stretched out hands, i.e., laying on of hands), accompanied by prayer and fasting. See on Acts 13:3.

The verbal form of χειροτονησαντες  literally signifies to extend the hand, and
refers to a method of voting by raising the hand; it also frequently means to choose, to appoint, and when used, as here, in connection with prayer and fasting, it refers, without doubt, to real ordination. Hence the word  was often used by the Greek Fathers to signify ordination, and has come to be the official name of that Sacrament in the Greek Church, while the noun form there
means the Sacrament of Confirmation. Cf. Crelier, La Sainte Bible, Les Actes des Apotres.

23 (24). And passing through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia.
24 (25). And having spoken the word of the Lord in Perge, they went down into Attalia

Attalia, now called Sandalia, was one of the principal seaports of Pamphylia. It was founded by King Attalus II.

3 Responses to “Father Callan’s Commentary on Acts 14:19-28”

  1. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Today’s First Reading (Acts 14:19-28). […]

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  3. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Today’s First Reading (Acts 14:19-28). […]

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