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 MacEvilly’s Commentary on Acts 14:5-18

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 2, 2015

ANALYSIS

We have an account of the opposition to the preaching of Paul and Barnabas at Iconium (1–5). Their flight to Lystra and Derbe,—the cure of a cripple (6–9). The insane conduct of the multitude who taking them for Gods prepare to offer them sacrifice (10–13). The loud denunciation by the Apostles of such impiety (13–17).

A14:5. “Assault.” A violent attack (ὁρμή), the effects of which were averted by flight. Others understand it of an intended assault, which the word “understanding” (v. 6) would seem to favour.

“Rulers.” Probably of the Synagogue, to bring them into contempt, and put them to death, probably on a charge of blasphemy (Acts 7:57–59).

Acts 14:6. “Understanding”. Apprized of their danger.

“Lycaonia.” Belonged formerly to Phrygia. Augustus erected it into a separate province.

Acts 14:7. “Sat.” Allusive to his usual posture, “there lived,” “impotent,” &c., deprived of the use of his limbs.

“A cripple,” &c. His condition being so well-known, the miracle could not, therefore, be gainsayed.

Acts 14:8. “Looking” earnestly “upon him.” Seeing from his voice, gesture, countenance, besides being interiorly enlightened by the Holy Ghost. “Faith to be healed.” The necessary faith for recovering his bodily health (Matthew 9:28; Mark 9:22; Luke 9:42). This is like the miracle of St. Peter, in most of the circumstances (3:6–8).

Acts 14:10. “Lycaonian tongue.” Some say a corrupt sort of Greek; others, an admixture of Greek and Syriac. St. Chrysostom thinks the Apostles did not understand it. Hence, their silence at the blasphemous utterances. It was only when they saw the garlands and preparations for sacrifice (13) they denounced it.

“The Gods are come,” &c. The Pagans fancied the Gods visited in human form the places sacred to them. Lystra was dedicated to Jupiter, who, on descending, was said to be accompanied by Mercury, the god of eloquence.

Acts 14:11. “Barnabas, Jupiter.” “Jupiter,” the supreme God, remarkable for power and prowess, was represented as the most powerful of the Gods among the Pagans. To him all the other Gods were subject. Everything but fate yielded to his sway. Commonly termed the father of Gods and men. St. Chrysostom conjectures that Barnabas was majestic in stature, well built, of a powerful frame, advanced in years. Hence, taken for “Jupiter.” Paul was the opposite. Being the “chief speaker,” no doubt eloquent, he was taken for “Mercury,” the God of eloquence, and messenger of the Gods.

Acts 14:12. “Priest of Jupiter.” Charged with worshipping by offering him sacrifices.

“That was,” &c., viz., Jupiter. “Before the city,” of which he was the tutelary deity. His image or temple was located before the gate of the city, in a prominent position, in accordance with Pagan usage.

“Oxen.” The usual sacrifice to Jupiter. “Garlands.” Ribands, adorning the victims.

Acts 14:13. “Had heard.” At their lodgings, being probably informed by some of their converts.

“Rending their clothes.” A mark of intense grief and abhorrence among the Jews (See Matthew 26:65, Commentary on).

Acts 14:14. How different from the unselfish and noble conduct of the Apostles in rejecting the proferred honour was that of the vain Herod Agrippa (12:22, &c.).

“Like you.” Subject to the same passions and infirmities. (This is conveyed by the Greek.) Having the common feelings and propensities of other men, equally needing food, subject to pain, sickness, and death, altogether opposed to the correct notions of the nature of God.

“Preaching to you,” &c. Far from pretending or claiming to be regarded as Gods, we, on the contrary, exhort you to give up the adoration of “these vain things,” these false Gods, idols, unreal beings, who have no real existence, who can neither see, not hear, nor help us, “oculos habent et non videbunt, aures habent et non audient,” &c. (Psalm 113; 1 Kings 12:21). In several parts of Scripture idols are termed vanities (Deut. 32:21; 4 Kings 17:15, &c.).

“Living God.” As distinguished from false divinities. A God “who made the heavens,” &c., and is, therefore, also entitled to supreme worship from His creatures.

Acts 14:15. “Times past.” During the ages before the Gospel dispensation.

“All nations” of the earth except the Jews (Acts 17:30) having “winked at the times of this ignorance” (17:30).

“To walk in their own ways.” Wicked ways of life, so opposed to the ways that lead to God, withholding from them the lights and spiritual helps conferred on the Jews—no written revelation, no occasional visits from the Prophets—and reserved in a particular way for the children of the New Law. The most polished nations were just as unable to rescue themselves from the prison of sin and infidelity as the most barbarous and least cultivated.

Acts 14:16. While leaving the Gentiles to the errors of their ways, imparting no revelation, God did not leave them without the means of knowing Him, without evidence and a knowledge of His existence, of His attributes and claims on their services. His wonderful benefits bore testimony to him.

“Doing good from Heaven.” Continually conferring benefits on the world, especially giving “rain” (the early and better rain) in due seasons. “Rain” is specially a gift from God (3 Kings 8:35; Job 5:10; Psalms 66:8, &c., 146:8), most necessary for human existence. Without it the earth would be dried up and rendered desolate.

“Fruitful seasons.” The earth rendering abundant fruit by God’s ordination corresponding to the labour of the husbandman.

“Filling our hearts,” viz., ourselves. “Hearts,” by a Hebraism, designates the entire person.

“Food.” Necessary for existence. “Gladness.” Resulting from our daily wants having been supplied.

From this, the Apostle leaves it to be inferred, without expressly stating it, that if the Gentiles did not come to the knowledge of God, it was their own fault.

The discourse at Athens, rather lengthy (17:23, 24) and Rom. (1:20–23) are on the same lines with this.

Acts 14:17. Notwithstanding this address dissuading them; still, on account of the miracles, they could hardly be restrained; or, this discourse, coupled with the miracles, convinced the Pagans the more that they were Gods, and, therefore, these foolish people could hardly be restrained.

Acts 14
18. “Certain Jews.” No doubt from among those who rebelled against the Apostle (13:45; 14:5).

“Antioch,” of Pisidia.

“Persuading,” &c. Likely, ascribing the miracle to sorcery and the black art.

“Stoning Paul.” Who was more obnoxious on account of his eloquence (2 Cor. 11:27).

“Drew him out of the city.” Left him there as unworthy of burial.

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