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 16:1-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 27, 2011

1. And he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, there was a certain disciple there named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman that believed; but his father was a Gentile.
2. To this man the brethren that were in Lystra and Iconium, gave a good testimony.

Timothy was most probably converted by St. Paul during the latter’s first mission. It is uncertain whether he was a native of Derbe or Lystra. He became a devoted follower of Paul, accompanying him to Greece, Rome, and Jerusalem. St. Paul addressed two of his Epistles to Timothy.

Timothy’s mother, Eunice, was a Jewish convert to Christianity, but his father was a Greek. The marriage of Timothy’s parents seems to have been contrary to Jewish Law (Neh 13:3; 1 Ezra 9:12), which prohibited marriages between Jews and Gentiles, but perhaps the law did not bind so strictly outside of Palestine.

3. Him Paul would have to go along with him : and taking him he circumcised him, because of the Jews who were in those places. For they all knew that his father was a Gentile.

He circumcised him. This action was not contrary to the decree of the Council of Jerusalem, which only decided that the Gentiles were not obliged to observe the Mosaic rites and ceremonies, but did not prohibit the Jews from observing them, if they chose to do so. Timothy was born of a Jewish mother, and was to be employed by St. Paul to preach the Gospel where there were many Jews. In order, therefore, to facilitate Timothy’s work among the Jews, who without circumcision would have regarded him as an apostate, St, Paul circumcised him (1 Cor 9:20, 21). When there was question of circumcising Titus, who was born of Gentile parents, St. Paul stood firm by the decree of the Council of Jerusalem and refused absolutely (Gal 2:3-5).

4. And as they passed through the cities, they delivered unto them the decrees for to keep, that were decreed by the apostles and ancients who were at Jerusalem,
5. And the churches were confirmed in faith, and increased in number daily.

The cities; i.e., the cities of Syria and Cilicia, where Paul and Barnabas had preached and founded churches.

Increased in number daily. This is often emphasized in Acts (Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 5:14; 6:1, 7; 8:25, 40; 9:31; 11:24-25; 14:21-23).

6. And when they had passed through Phrygia, and the country of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia.

The country of Galatia. There is a fierce dispute as to what country these words, and the similar words of Acts 18:23, may refer; whether, namely, St. Luke in these two passages means to indicate Northern Galatia (Galatia Proper), in which were the cities Ancyra, Pessinus, and Tavium; or Southern Galatia (the Roman Province of Galatia), in which Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch were situated.

Answer: The term Galatia was applied — (a) to the country conquered by Celtic invaders in the third century B.C. (Galatia Proper), the boundaries of which were Bithynia on the north, Pontus and Cappadocia on the east, Lycaonia and Pisidia on the south, and Phrygia on the west; (b) to the Roman Province of Galatia, established in the second century a.d., from which the Proper, Paphlagonia, parts of Pontus and Lycaonia, Pisidia, Isauria, and a part of Phrygia; (c) to the Roman Province of Galatia established in the second century a.d., from which the whole of central and southern Lycaonia was separated.

There are two theories as to the meaning of the term Galatia in the present verse and in Acts 18:3: (a) The North Galatian theory, which holds that St. Luke is speaking of Galatia Proper only. Arguments for this theory: (1) This is the older and more common opinion; (2) the present verse in the great MSS. reads: “They
went through Phrygia and the Galatian country, having been for bidden by the Holy Ghost to speak the word in Asia.” The natural interpretation, according to this theory, is that Paul, having reached the borders of Asia, was forbidden to preach there, and so turned northeast to Galatia Proper.

(b) The second, or South Galatian theory maintains that St. Luke is speaking of the southern part of the Roman Province of Galatia, where were the churches of Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, etc. Arguments for this theory: (1) verse 7 of the present chapter shows the Apostle in Mysia on his way to Bithynia. As there seems to be question here of a single continuous journey geography requires that the missionaries, having been forbidden to preach in Asia, should not have made a detour of some hundreds of miles to the east, into North Galatia, but should have continued on through the Phrygian-Galatian country to Mysia in Asia with the intention of entering Bithynia. (2) If St. Paul went to North Galatia this was either to establish churches there, or to reach Bithynia. If the first, it is
most extraordinary that St. Luke, contrary to his custom, gives no account of these new foundations; if the second was his purpose, it is strange that in the next verse the Apostle is represented as striving to enter Bithynia from Mysia, many hundreds of miles to the west.

Thus the South Galatian theory seems more conformable to the requirements of geography and the text. The arguments for the other theory are not conclusive. That the North Galatian theory is older may be due to the fact that the name Galatia from the second century a.d. onward had not the same meaning as in the
time of St. Paul. Furthermore, the prohibition to preach ( λαλησαι τον λογον) in Asia does not seem a sufficient reason for not continuing the journey through Asia. But if this prohibition did cause the missionaries to turn back toward the east, how do we find them in the next verse in Mysia, so far to the west? How did they get there? Either by going through Asia, against their first resolution, or by going through Bithynia (see map); if through Bithynia, why do we find the Apostle trying to enter Bithynia from Mysia? This is inexplicable. Cf. Lightfoot, Epistle to the Galatians; Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller, etc. ; Steinmann, Der Leserk. des Galaterhr.; Conway, The Galatian Churches, Irish Theol. Quarterly, January, 1919.

It is objected that St. Luke here and in 18:23 represents St. Paul as merely passing through Galatia, whereas from the Epistle to the Galatians it is evident that the Apostle’s stay there was considerably prolonged. Answer: In the South Galatian theory this objection disappears, since St. Luke speaks about the Apostle’s prolonged labors in the cities and districts of Southern Galatia on his first missionary journey (Acts 14:1—24) and his visits to the churches there on his second and third journeys (Acts 16:1-5; 18:23). According to the North Galatian theory it can be replied: (a) St. Luke is speaking of Galatia Proper, while St. Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians is addressing the whole province of Galatia, both North and South; (b) St. Luke is accustomed often to condense long periods and many events into a brief description. Thus the two years of St. Paul’s imprisonment at Caesarea are described in a few lines; and only one verse (Acts 18:22) is devoted to the Apostle’s fourth journey to Jerusalem.

In Asia; i.e., Proconsular Asia, the country bordering on the Aegean Sea, of which the capital was Ephesus. The Holy Ghost forbade the preaching of the Gospel here, perhaps because the people were at the time indisposed, or at least not so well-disposed as the Macedonians.

7. And when they were come into Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not.

Mysia was a part of Proconsular Asia Minor bordering on the Aegean Sea, the chief cities of which were Pergamos, Assos, and Troas. Bithynia was the province northeast of Mysia.

The spirit of Jesus; i.e., the Holy Ghost directed the Apostles to carry the Gospel to Europe; Asia Minor had been sufficiently evangelized for the time being.

8. And when they had passed through Mysia, they went down to Troas.

Troas was a seaport of great importance, about five miles from ancient Troy.

9. And a vision was shewed to Paul in the night, which was a man of
Macedonia standing and beseeching him, and saying: Pass over into Macedonia, and help us.

A man of Macedonia, who was perhaps St. Luke himself. This vision at Troas now explained why St. Paul had not been permitted to preach in Asia. The Holy Ghost was directing him to an important missionary journey in Europe.

10. And as soon as he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, being assured that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

We sought to go, etc. The use of the first person plural shows that St. Luke, the writer of the Acts, now became a disciple of St. Paul. When he leaves Paul at Philippi the use of the first person ceases (verse 17).

This is the first place where St. Luke in the Acts speaks in the first person plural. In all there are ninety-seven verses of this character in the Acts (Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16) and they constitute what is known as the “we sections”. The German rationalists (Julicher, Haltzmann, Wendt, Schurer, etc.) make much of these passages to disprove the Lukan authorship of the book of Acts. They contend that the verses in question were a part of a diary of Luke, the companion of Paul, which was retouched by a subsequent writer of the Acts and inserted by him into his work to give it credibility. That the author of the ” we sections ” was not the author of the rest of the book of Acts, they say is evident from the differences in style, vocabulary, and thought between these verses and the rest of the book.

Against these critics we may first quote the words of Harnack: “If we read the Acts of the Apostles . . . with discernment, we discover one mind and one hand. . . . We really have here a man of the first Greek generation in the history of Christianity” (Lukas, p. 102).

Moreover, the use of precise medical terms, which are characteristic of St. Luke in the Third Gospel and in the rest of the Acts, prevails also in the “we sections,” See e.g., καθηψεν  (Acts 28:3), πιμπρασθαι (Acts 28:6), πυρετοις και δυσεντερια (Acts 28:8), etc., all of which have been shown to be technical medical terms. Cf. Hobart, The Medical Language of St. Luke. Hence again Harnack, after a careful comparison of the words and style of the “we sections” with those of the rest of the book of Acts and the Third Gospel, concludes that so striking is the analogy between the terms of comparison that we must admit the identity of the author of both (Lukas, pp. 19-60). The conclusion, in fact, reached by nearly everybody to-day, whether Catholic, Protestant, or rationalist, is that the Third Gospel and the Acts were written by the same author, and have the same characteristics of spirit and style throughout, and that these are the characteristics of Luke.

The “we sections,” then, of the Acts, instead of weakening the unity and authenticity of the book, are in reality a historical and philological confirmation of oneness of authorship and authenticity. See Decisions of the Biblical Commission, No. Ill, page 197.

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2 Responses to “Father Callan’s Commentary on Acts 16:1-10”

  1. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Today’s First Reading (Acts 16:1-10). […]

  2. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Today’s First Reading (Acts 16:1-10). […]

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