Acts 28


St. Paul, and the rest of the crew, getting safely ashore, find

that the island on which they were shipwrecked is called

Melita, 1.

They are received with great hospitality by the inhabitants, 2.

A viper comes out of the bundle of sticks, laid on the fire, and

seizes on Paul's hand, 3.

The people, seeing this, suppose him to be a murderer, and thus

pursued by Divine vengeance, 4.

Having shook it off his hand, without receiving any damage, they

change their minds, and suppose him to be a god, 5, 6.

Publius, the governor of the island, receives them courteously,

and Paul miraculously heals his father, who was ill of a fever,

&c., 7, 8.

He heals several others also, who honour them much, and give

them presents, 9, 10.

After three months' stay, they embark in a ship of Alexandria,

land at Syracuse, stay there three days, sail thence, pass the

straits of Rhegium, and land at Puteoli; find some Christians

there, tarry seven days, and set forward for Rome, 11-14.

They are met at Appii Forum by some Christians, and Paul is

greatly encouraged, 15.

They come to Rome, and Julius delivers his prisoners to the

captain of the guard, who permits Paul to dwell by himself only

attended by the soldier that kept him, 16.

Paul calls the chief Jews together, and states his case to them,


They desire to hear him concerning the faith of Christ, 21, 22;

and, having appointed unto him a day, he expounds to them the

kingdom of Christ, 23.

Some believe, and some disbelieve; and Paul informs them that,

because of their unbelief and disobedience, the salvation of

God is sent to the Gentiles, 24-29.

Paul dwells two years in his own hired house, preaching the

kingdom of God, 30, 31.


Verse 1. They knew that the island was called Melita.] There

were two islands of this name: one in the Adriatic Gulf, or Gulf

of Venice, on the coast of Illyricum, and near to Epidaurus; the

other in the Mediterranean Sea, between Sicily and Africa, and now

called Malta. It is about fifty miles from the coast of Sicily;

twenty miles long, and twelve miles in its greatest breadth; and

about sixty miles in circumference. It is one immense rock of

white, soft freestone, with about one foot depth of earth on an

average, and most of this has been brought from Sicily! It

produces cotton, excellent fruits, and fine honey; from which it

appears the island originally had its name; for μελι, meli, and in

the genitive case, μελιτος, melitos, signifies honey. Others

suppose that it derived its name from the Phoenicians, who

established a colony in it, and made it a place of refuge, when

they extended their traffic to the ocean, because it was furnished

with excellent harbours: (on the E. and W. shores:) hence, in

their tongue, it would be called Meliteh, escape or refuge,

from malat, to escape.

The Phaeacians were probably the first inhabitants of this

island: they were expelled by the Phoenicians; the Phoenicians by

the Greeks; the Greeks by the Carthaginians; the Carthaginians by

the Romans, who possessed it in the time of the apostle; the

Romans by the Goths; the Goths by the Saracens; the Saracens by

the Sicilians, under Roger, earl of Sicily, in 1190. Charles V.,

emperor of Germany, took possession of it by his conquest of

Naples and Sicily; and he gave it in 1525 to the knights of

Rhodes, who are also called the knights of St. John of

Jerusalem. In 1798, this island surrendered to the French, under

Bonaparte, and in 1800, after a blockade of two years, the island

being reduced by famine, surrendered to the British, under whose

dominion it still remains (1814.) Every thing considered, there

can be little doubt that this is the Melita at which St. Paul was

wrecked, and not at that other island in the Adriatic, or Venitian

Gulf, as high up northward as Illyricum. The following reasons

make this greatly evident: 1. Tradition has unvaryingly asserted

this as the place of the apostle's shipwreck. 2. The island in the

Venitian Gulf, in favour of which Mr. Bryant so learnedly

contends, is totally out of the track in which the euroclydon must

have driven the vessel. 3. It is said, in Ac 28:11, that another

ship of Alexandria, bound, as we must suppose, for Italy, and very

probably carrying wheat thither, as St. Paul's vessel did,

(Ac 27:38,) had been driven out of its course of sailing, by

stress of weather, up to the Illyricum Melita, and had been for

that cause obliged to winter in the isle. Now this is a

supposition which, as I think, is too much of a supposition to

be made. 4. In St. Paul's voyage to Italy from Melita, on board

the Alexandrian ship that had wintered there, he and his

companions landed at Syracuse, Ac 28:12, 13, and from thence went

to Rhegium. But if it had been the Illyrican Melita, the proper

course of the ship would have been, first to Rhegium, before it

reached Syracuse, and needed not to have gone to Syracuse at all;

whereas, in a voyage from the present Malta to Italy, it was

necessary to reach Syracuse, in Sicily, before the ship could

arrive at Rhegium in Italy. See the map; and see Bp. Pearce, from

whom I have extracted the two last arguments.

That Malta was possessed by the Phoenicians, before the Romans

conquered it, Bochart has largely proved; and indeed the language

to the present day, notwithstanding all the political vicissitudes

through which the island has passed, bears sufficient evidence of

its Punic origin. In the year 1761, near a place called Ben Ghisa,

in this island, a sepulchral cave was discovered, in which was a

square stone with an inscription in Punic or Phoenician

characters, on which Sir Wm. Drummond has written a learned

essay, (London, Valpy, 1810, 4to.,) which he supposes marks the

burial place, at least of the ashes, of the famous Carthaginian

general, Hannibal. I shall give this inscription in Samaritan

characters, as being the present form of the ancient Punic, with

Sir Wm. Drummond's translation:-

[Samaritan MSS. majuscule]

[Samaritan MSS. majuscule]

[Samaritan MSS. majuscule]

[Samaritan MSS. majuscule]

Chadar Beth olam kabar Chanibaal

Nakeh becaleth haveh, rach-

m daeh Am beshuth Chanib-

aal ben Bar-melec.

"The inner chamber of the sanctuary of the sepulchre

of Hannibal,

Illustrious in the consummation of calamity.

He was beloved;

The people lament, when arrayed

In order of battle,

Hannibal the son of Bar-Melec."

As this is a curious piece, and one of the largest remains of

the Punic language now in existence, and as it helps to ascertain

the ancient inhabitants of this island, I thought it not improper

to insert it here. For the illustration of this and several other

points of Punic antiquity, I must refer the curious reader to the

essay itself.

Verse 2. The barbarous people] We have already seen that this

island was peopled by the Phoenicians, or Carthaginians, as

Bochart has proved, Phaleg. chap. xxvi.; and their ancient

language was no doubt in use among them at that time, though

mingled with some Greek and Latin terms; and this language must

have been unintelligible to the Romans and the Greeks. With these,

as well as with other nations, it was customary to call those

βαρβαροι, barbarians, whose language they did not understand.

St. Paul himself speaks after this manner in 1Co 14:11:

If I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that

speaketh a BARBARIAN, and he that speaketh shall be a BARBARIAN

unto me. Thus Herodotus also, lib. ii. 158, says, βαρβαρουςπαντας

αιγυπτιοικαλεουσιτουςμησφιομογλωσσους The Egyptians call all

those BARBARIANS who have not the same language with themselves.

And Ovid, when among the Getes, says, in Trist. ver. 10:-

BARBARUS hic ego sum, quia non INTELLIGOR ulli.

"Here I am a barbarian, for no person understands me."

Various etymologies have been given of this word. I think that

of Bp. Pearce the best. The Greeks who traded with the

Phoenicians, formed this word from their observing that the

Phoenicians were generally called by the name of their parent,

with the word bar, prefixed to that name; as we find in the New

Testament men called Bar-Jesus, Bar-Tholomeus, Bar-Jonas,

Bar-Timeus, &c. Hence the Greeks called them βαρβαροι, meaning

the men who are called Bar Bar, or have no other names than what

begin with Bar. And because the Greeks did not understand the

language of the Phoenicians, their first, and the Romans in

imitation of them, gave the name of Barbarians to all such as

talked in a language to which they were strangers." No other

etymology need be attempted; this is its own proof; and the

Bar-melec in the preceding epitaph is, at least, collateral

evidence. The word barbarian is therefore no term of reproach in

itself; and was not so used by ancient authors, however

fashionable it may be to use it so now.

Because of the present rain and-of the cold.] This must have

been sometime in October; and, when we consider the time of the

year, the tempestuousness of the weather, and their escaping to

shore on planks, spars, &c., wet of course to the skin, they must

have been very cold, and have needed all the kindness that these

well disposed people showed them. In some parts of Christianized

Europe, the inhabitants would have attended on the beach, and

knocked the survivors on the head, that they might convert the

wreck to their own use! This barbarous people did not act in this

way: they joined hands with God to make these sufferers live.

Verse 3. There came a viper out of the heat] We may naturally

suppose that there had been fuel laid before on the fire, and that

the viper was in this fuel, and that it had been revived by the

heat; and, when St. Paul laid his bundle on the fire, the viper

was then in a state to lay hold on his hand.

Verse 4. The venomous beast] τοθηριον, The venomous animal; for

θηρια is a general name among the Greek writers for serpents,

vipers, scorpions, wasps, and such like creatures. Though the

viper fastened on Paul's hand, it does not appear that it really

bit him; but the Maltese supposed that it had, because they saw

it fasten on his hand.

Vengeance suffereth not to live.] These heathens had a general

knowledge of retributive justice; and they thought that the

stinging of the serpent was a proof that Paul was a murderer.

There is a passage in Bamidbar Rabba, fol. 239, that casts some

light on this place. "Although the Sanhedrin is ceased, yet are

not the four deaths ceased. For he that deserves stoning either

falls from his house, or a wild beast tears and devours him. He

that deserves burning either falls into the fire, or a serpent

bites him. He that deserves cutting of with the sword is either

betrayed into the power of a heathen kingdom, or the robbers break

in upon him. He that deserves strangling is either suffocated in

the water, or dies of a quinsy." See Lightfoot.

As these people were heathens, it is not likely that they had

any correct notion of the justice of the true God; and therefore

it is most probable that they used the word δικη, not to express

the quality or attribute of any being, but the goddess Dik�, or

vindictive Justice, herself, who is represented as punishing the

iniquities of men.

Hesiod makes a goddess of what the Maltese called δικη, or







Hesiod. Opera, ver. 254.

JUSTICE, unspotted maid, derived from Jove,

Renown'd and reverenced by the gods above:

When mortals violate her sacred laws,

When judges hear the bribe and not the cause,

Close by her parent god, behold her stand,

And urge the punishment their sins demand.


Verse 5. Shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.]

This is a presumptive evidence that the viper did not bite St.

Paul: it fastened on his hand, but had no power to injure him.

Verse 6. When he should have swollen] πιμπρασθαι, When he should

have been inflamed: by means of an acrid poison introduced into

the blood, it is soon coagulated; and, in consequence, the

extremities of the vessels become obstructed, strong inflammation

takes place, and all the parts become most painfully swollen.

Lucan, ix. v. 791, gives a terrible account of this effect of

the bite of a serpent:-

__________________illi rubor igneus ora

Succendit, tenditque cutem, pereunte figura

Miscens cuncta tumor jam toto corpore major:

Humanumque egressa modum super omnia membra

Efflatur sanies late tollente veneno.

Ipse latet penitus, congesto corpore mersus;

Nec lorica tenet distenti corporis auctum.

And straight a sudden flame began to spread,

And paint his visage with a glowing red.

With swift expansion swells the bloated skin,

Nought but an undistinguished mass is seen;

While the fair human form lies lost within,

The puffy poison spreads and heaves around,

Till all the man is in the monster drown'd.


See other ensamples, in Clarke's notes on "Nu 21:6".

Said that he was a god.] As Hercules was one of the gods of

the Phoenicians, and was worshipped in Malta under the epithet of

αλεξικακος, the dispeller of evil, they probably thought that Paul

was Hercules; and the more so, because Hercules was famous for

having destroyed, in his youth, two serpents that attacked him in

his cradle.

Verse 7. The chief man of the island] The term πρωτος, CHIEF,

used hereby St. Luke, was the ancient title of the governor of

this island, as is evident from an inscription found in Malta,

which runs thus:-


Lucius Caius, son of Quirinus, a Roman knight, CHIEF of the

Melitese. See Bochart, Phaleg. and Chan. vol. i. chap. 498, &c.,

and Grotius. This title is another proof of the accuracy of St.

Luke, who uses the very epithet by which the Roman governor of

that island was distinguished.

Verse 8. The father of Publius lay sick] πυρετοιςκαι

δυσεντερια; Of a fever and dysentery; perhaps a cholera morbus.

Paul-prayed] That God would exert his power; and laid his hands

on him, as the means which God ordinarily used to convey the

energy of the Holy Spirit, and healed him; God having conveyed the

healing power by this means. In such a disorder as that mentioned

here by St. Luke, where the bowels were in a state of

inflammation, and a general fever aiding the dysentery in its work

of death, nothing less than a miracle could have made an

instantaneous cure in the patient. Such a cure was wrought, and

even the heathens saw that it was the hand of God.

Verse 9. Others-which had diseases] Luke was a physician; yet we

do not find him engaging in these cures. As a medical man, he

might have been of use to the father of Publius; but he is not

even consulted on the occasion. Paul enters in to him, prays for

him, lays his hands on him, and he is healed. The other diseased

persons who are mentioned in this verse were doubtless healed in

the same way.

Verse 10. Honoured us with many honours] The word τιμη, as

Bishop Pearce has remarked, is often used to signify a pecuniary

recompense, or present. The Greek word seems to be thus used in

1Ti 5:17.

Let the elders which rule well be accounted worthy of double

HONOUR, τιμης, which St. Chrysostom, on the place, explains thus:

τηντωναναγκαιωνχορηγιαν a supplying them with all necessary

things. Diodorus Siculus, and Xenophon, used the word in the same

way. In the sense of a pecuniary recompense, or price, paid for

any thing, the word τιμη is met with in 1Co 6:20; and 1Co 7:23.

And in the Septuagint, Nu 22:17; compared with Nu 22:18;

Ps 8:5; and Ps 49:12; Pr 3:9. Bp. Pearce.

Such things as were necessary.] They had before given them many

presents, and now they gave them a good sea stock; all that was

necessary for their passage.

Verse 11. After three months] Supposing that they had reached

Malta about the end of October, as we have already seen, then it

appears that they left it about the end of January, or the

beginning of February; and, though in the depth of winter, not the

worst time for sailing, even in those seas, the wind being then

generally more steady; and, on the whole, the passage more safe.

Whose sign was Castor and Pollux.] These were two fabulous

semi-deities, reported to be the sons of Jupiter and Leda, who

were afterwards translated to the heavens, and made the

constellation called Gemini, or the Twins. This constellation was

deemed propitious to mariners; and, as it was customary to have

the images of their gods both on the head and stern of their

ships, we may suppose that this Alexandrian ship had these on

either her prow or stern, and that these gave name to the ship.

We, who profess to be a Christian people, follow the same heathen

custom: we have out ships called the Castor, the Jupiter, the

Minerva, the Leda, (the mother of Castor and Pollux,) with a

multitude of other demon gods and goddesses; so that, were ancient

Romans or Grecians to visit our navy, they would be led to suppose

that, after the lapse of more than 2000 years, their old religion

had continued unaltered!

Virgil speaks of a vessel called the Tiger. AEneid, x. ver.


Massicus aerata princeps secat aequora TIGRI.

"Massicus, chief, cuts the waves in the brazen-beaked TIGER."

Of another called the Chimera. AEn. v. ver. 118, 223:-

Ingentemque Gyas ingenti mole CHIMAERAM.

"Gyas the vast Chimera's bulk commands."

And of another called the Centaur. AEn. v. ver. 122, 155, 157:-

__________________CENTAURO invehitur magna.

"Sergestus, in the great Centaur, took the leading place."

Besides these names, they had their tutelary gods in the ship,

from whom they expected succour; and sometimes they had their

images on the stern; and when they got safely to the end of their

voyage, they were accustomed to crown these images with garlands:

thus Virgil, Geor. i. ver. 304:-

PUPPIBUS et laeti naute imposuere CORONAS.

"The joyous sailors place garlands on their sterns."

Several ancient fables appear to have arisen out of the names of

ships. Jupiter is fabled to have carried off Europa, across the

sea, in the shape of a bull; and to have carried away Ganymede, in

the shape of an eagle. That is, these persons were carried away,

one in a ship called Taurus, or Bull; and the other in one

denominated Aquila, the Eagle. Why not Taurus, as well as

Tigris? and why not Aquila, as well as Chimera?-which names

did belong to ships, as we find from the above quotations.

Verse 12. Landing at Syracuse] In order to go to Rome from

Malta, their readiest course was to keep pretty close to the

eastern coast of Sicily, in order to pass through the straits of

Rhegium and get into the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Syracuse is one of the most famous cities of antiquity: it is

the capital of the island of Sicily, and was built about 730 years

before the Christian era. It lies 72 miles S. by E. of Messina,

and about 112 of Palermo. Long. 15�. 30'. W., lat. 37�. 17'. N. In

its ancient state, it was about 22 English miles in circumference;

and was highly celebrated for the martial spirit of its

inhabitants. This was the birthplace of the illustrious

Archimedes; who, when the city was besieged by the Romans,

under Marcellus, about 212 years before Christ, defended the place

with his powerful engines against all the valour and power of the

assailants. He beat their galleys to pieces by huge stones

projected from his machines; and by hooks, chains, and levers,

from the walls, weighed the ships out of the water, and, whirling

them round, dashed them in pieces against each other, or sunk them

to the bottom: several also, he is said to have destroyed by his

burning glasses. When the city was taken by treachery, Archimedes

was found intensely engaged in the demonstration of a problem. A

Roman soldier coming up, and presenting his dagger to his throat,

he cried, "Stop, soldier, or thou wilt spoil my diagram!" The

brute was unmoved, and murdered him on the spot.

This city was almost totally destroyed by an earthquake in 1693:

its present population amounts to but about 18,000. Christianity,

in some form or other, has existed here ever since St. Paul spent

the three days in it, mentioned in the text.

Verse 13. We fetched a compass] οθενπεριελθοντες, Whence we

coasted about. This will appear evident, when the coast of Sicily

is viewed on any correct map, of a tolerably large scale.

Rhegium] A city and promontory in Calabria, in Italy, opposite

to Sicily. It is now called Reggio. It had its name, ρηγιον,

Rhegium, from the Greek ρηγνυμι, to break off; because it

appears to have been broken off from Sicily.

The south wind blew] This was the fairest wind they could have

from Syracuse, to reach the straits of Rhegium.

The next day to Puteoli] This place, now commonly called

Pozzuoli, is an ancient town of Naples in the Terra di Lavoro;

and is supposed to have been founded by the Samians, about 470

years before Christ. Within this city are several warm baths, very

highly celebrated; and from these, and its springs in general, it

seems to have had its ancient name Puteoli, from PUTEI, wells or

pits; though some derive it from putor, a stench, or bad

smell, because of the sulphureous exhalations from its warm

waters. Varro gives both these etymologies, lib. iv. de Ling. Lat.

cap. 5. It is famous for its temple of Jupiter Serapis, which is

built, not according to the Grecian or Roman manner, but according

to the Asiatic. Near this place are the remains of Cicero's villa,

which are of great extent. The town contains, at present, about

10,000 inhabitants. Long. 14�. 40'. E., lat. 41�. 50'. N.

Verse 14. Where we found brethren] That is, Christians; for

there had been many in Italy converted to the faith of Christ,

some considerable time before this, as appears from St. Paul's

epistle to the Romans, written some years before this voyage.

We went toward Rome.] One of the most celebrated cities in the

universe, the capital of Italy, and once of the whole world;

situated on the river Tiber, 410 miles SSE. of Vienna; 600 SE. of

Paris; 730 E. by N. of Madrid; 760 W. of Constantinople; and 780

SE. of London. Long. 12�. 55'. E., lat. 41�. 54'. N. This famous

city was founded by Romulus, at the end of the seventh Olympiad,

A.M. 3251; of the flood, 1595; and 753 years before the Christian

aera. The history of this city must be sought for in works written

expressly on the subject, of which there are many. Modern Rome is

greatly inferior to ancient Rome in every respect. Its population,

taken in 1709, amounted to 138,569 souls only; among whom were 40

bishops, 2686 priests, 3359 monks, 1814 nuns, 893

courtezans, between 8 and 9000 Jews, and 14 Moors. This city,

which once tyrannized over the world by its arms, and over the

whole Christian world by its popes, is now reduced to a very low

state among the governments of Europe, by whom it is supported,

for it has no power sufficient for its own defence.

Verse 15. When the brethren heard of us] By whom the Gospel was

planted at Rome is not known: it does not appear that any apostle

was employed in this work. It was probably carried thither by some

of those who were converted to God at the day of pentecost; for

there were then at Jerusalem, not only devout men, proselytes to

the Jewish religion, from every nation under heaven, Ac 2:5, but

there were strangers of Rome also, Ac 2:10. And it in most

reasonable to believe, as we know of no other origin, that it was

by these Christianity was planted at Rome.

As far as Appii Forum] About 52 miles from Rome; a long way to

come on purpose to meet the apostle! The Appii Forum, or Market of

Appius, was a town on the Appian way, a road paved from Rome to

Campania, by the consul Appius Claudius. It was near the sea, and

was a famous resort for sailors, peddlers, &c. Horace, lib. i.

Satyr. 5, ver. 3, mentions this place on his journey from Rome to


____________________________Inde FORUM APPI

Differtum nautis, cauponibus atgue malignis.

"To Forum Appii thence we steer, a place

Stuff'd with rank boatmen, and with vintners base."

This town is now called Caesarilla de S. Maria.

And the Three Taverns] This was another place on the same road,

and about 33 miles from Rome. Some of the Roman Christians had

come as far as Appii Forum: others, to the Three Taverns. Bp.

Pearce remarks, there are some ruins in that place which are now

called Tre Taverne; and this place Cicero mentions in his epistles

to Atticus, lib. ii. 11. Ab Appi Foro hora quarta: dederam aliam

paulo ante in Tribus Tabernis. "Dated at ten in the morning, from

Appii Forum. I sent off another (epistle) a little before, from

the Three Taverns."

Zosimus, lib. 2, mentions τριακαπηλεια, the three taverns, or

victualling houses, where the Emperor Severus was strangled by

the treason of Maximinus Herculeus, and his son Maxentius. See


The word taberna, from trabs, a beam, signifies any building

formed of timber; such as those we call booths, sheds, &c., which

are formed of beams, planks, boards, and the like; and therefore

me may consider it as implying, either a temporary residence, or

some mean building, such as a cottage, &c. And in this sense

Horace evidently uses it, Carm. lib. i. Od. iv. ver. 13:-

Pallida mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas

Regumque turres.

"With equal pace, impartial Fate

Knocks at the palace as the cottage gate."


This place, at first, was probably a place for booths or sheds,

three of which were remarkable; other houses became associated

with them in process of time, and the whole place denominated Tres

Tabernae, from the three first remarkable booths set up there. It

appears to have been a large town in the fourth century, as

Optatus mentions Felix a Tribus Tabernis, Felix of the Three

Taverns, as one of the Christian bishops.

Thanked God, and took courage.] He had longed to see Rome; (see

Ro 1:9-15;) and, finding himself brought through so many

calamities, and now so near the place that he was met by a part of

that Church to which, some years before, he had written an

epistle, he gave thanks to God, who had preserved him, and took

fresh courage, in the prospect of bearing there a testimony for

his Lord and Master.

Verse 16. The captain of the guard] στρατοπεδαρχη. This word

properly means the commander of a camp; but it signifies the

prefect, or commander of the pretorian cohorts, or emperor's


Tacitus (Annal. lib. iv. cap. 2) informs us that, in the reign

of Tiberius, Sejanus, who was then prefect of these troops, did,

in order to accomplish his ambitious designs, cause them to be

assembled from their quarters in the city, and stationed in a

fortified camp near it; so that their commander is with peculiar

propriety styled by St. Luke στρατοπεδαρχης, the commander of the

camp. For the arrival of St. Paul at Rome was in the seventh year

of Nero; and it is certain, from Suetonius, (in Tiber. cap. 37,)

that the custom of keeping the pretorian soldiers in a camp, near

the city, was retained by the emperors succeeding Tiberius; for

the historian observes that Claudius, at his accession to the

empire, was received into the camp, in castra delatus est, namely,

of the pretorian cohorts; and so Tacitus says of Nero, An. lib.

xii. cap. 69, that on the same occasions illatus castris, he was

brought into the camp. Dr. Doddridge observes that it was

customary for prisoners who were brought to Rome to be delivered

to this officer, who had the charge of the state prisoners, as

appears from the instance of Agrippa, who was taken into custody

by Macro, the pretorian prefect, who succeeded Sejanus; (Joseph.

Ant. lib. xviii. cap. 7. sec. 6;) and from Trajan's order to

Pliny, when two were in commission, Plin. lib. x. ep. 65. Vinctus

mitti ad praefectos praetorii mei debet: he should be sent bound

to the prefects of my guards. The person who now had that office

was the noted Afranius Burrhus; but both before and after him it

was held by two: Tacit. An. lib. xii. sec. 42; lib. xiv. sec. 51.

See Parkhurst.

Burrhus was a principal instrument in raising Nero to the

throne; and had considerable influence in repressing many of the

vicious inclinations of that bad prince. With many others, he was

put to death by the inhuman Nero. Burrhus is praised by the

historians for moderation and love of justice. His treatment of

St. Paul is no mean proof of this. Calmet.

With a soldier that kept him.] That is, the soldier to whom he

was chained, as has been related before, Ac 12:6.

Verse 17. Paul called the chief of the Jews together] We have

already seen, in Ac 18:2, that

Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome; see the

note there: but it seems they were permitted to return very soon;

and, from this verse, it appears that there were then chiefs,

probably of synagogues, dwelling at Rome.

I have committed nothing] Lest they should have heard and

received malicious reports against him, he thought it best to

state his own case.

Verse 20. For the hope of Israel I am bound, &c.] As if he had

said: This, and this alone, is the cause of my being delivered

into the hands of the Romans; I have proclaimed Jesus as the

Messiah; have maintained that though he was crucified by the

Jews, yet he rose again from the dead; and, through him, I have

preached the general resurrection of mankind: this all Israel

professes to hope for; and yet it is on this account that the Jews

persecute me. Both the Messiah and the resurrection might be

said to be the hope of Israel; and it is hard to tell which of

them is here meant: see Ac 13:6; 24:15, 21; 26:6. It is certain

that, although the Jews believed in the general resurrection, yet

they did not credit it in the manner in which Paul preached it;

for he laid the foundation of the general resurrection on the

resurrection of Christ.

Verse 21. We neither received letters, &c.] This is very

strange, and shows us that the Jews knew their cause to be

hopeless, and therefore did not send it forward to Rome. They

wished for an opportunity to kill Paul: and, when they were

frustrated by his appeal to the emperor, they permitted the

business to drop. Calmet supposes they had not time to send; but

this supposition does not appear to be sufficiently solid: they

might have sent long before Paul sailed; and they might have

written officially by the vessel in which the centurion and the

prisoners were embarked. But their case was hopeless; and they

could not augur any good to themselves from making a formal

complaint against the apostle at the emperor's throne.

Verse 22. For as concerning this sect]

See Clarke on Ac 24:14. A saying of

Justin Martyr casts some light on this saying of the Jews: he

asserts that the Jews not only cursed them in their synagogues,

but they sent out chosen men from Jerusalem, to acquaint the

world, and particularly the Jews everywhere, that the Christians

were an atheistical and wicked sect, which should be, detested and

abhorred by all mankind. Justin Martyr, Dial. p. 234.

Verse 23. To whom he expounded-the kingdom of God] To whom he

showed that the reign of the Messiah was to be a spiritual reign;

and that Jesus, whom the Jewish rulers had lately crucified, was

the true Messiah, who should rule in this spiritual kingdom. These

two points were probably those on which he expatiated from morning

to evening, proving both out of the law and out of the prophets.

How easily Jesus, as the Messiah, and his spiritual kingdom, might

be proved from the law of Moses, any person may be satisfied, by

consulting the notes written on those books. As to the prophets,

their predictions are so clear, and their prophecies so obviously

fulfilled in the person, preaching, miracles, passion, and death

of Jesus Christ, that it is utterly impossible, with any show of

reason, to apply them to any other.

Verse 24. Some believed, &c.] His message was there treated as

his Gospel is to the present day: some believe, and are converted;

others continue in obstinate unbelief, and perish. Could the Jews

then have credited the spiritual nature of the Messiah's kingdom,

they would have found little difficulty to receive Jesus Christ as


Multitudes of those now called Christians can more easily credit

Jesus as the Messiah than believe the spiritual nature of his

kingdom. The cross is the great stumbling block: millions expect

Jesus and his kingdom who cannot be persuaded that the cross is

the way to the crown.

Verse 25. Agreed not among themselves] It seems that a

controversy arose between the Jews themselves, in consequence of

some believing, and others disbelieving; and the two parties

contested together; and, in respect to the unbelieving party, the

apostle quoted the following passage from Isa 6:9.

Verse 26. Hearing ye shall hear, &c.] See the notes on

Mt 13:14, and Joh 12:39, 40.

Verse 28. The salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles] St.

Paul had spoken to this effect twice before, Ac 13:46, and

Ac 18:6, where see the notes; but here he uses a firmer tone,

being out of the Jewish territories, and under the protection of

the emperor. By the salvation of God, all the blessings of the

kingdom of Christ are intended. This salvation God could have sent

unto the Gentiles, independently of the Jewish disobedience; but

He waited till they had rejected it, and then reprobated them, and

elected the Gentiles. Thus the elect became reprobate, and the

reprobate elect.

They will hear it.] That is, they will obey it; for ακουειν

signifies, not only to hear, but also to obey.

Verse 29. And had great reasoning among themselves.] The

believers contending with the unbelievers; and thus we may suppose

that the cause of truth gained ground. For contentions about the

truth and authenticity of the religion of Christ infallibly end in

the triumph and extension of that religion.

Verse 30. Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house] As

a state prisoner, he might have had an apartment in the common

prison; but peculiar favour was showed him, and he was permitted

to dwell alone, with the soldier that guarded him, Ac 28:16.

Finding now an opportunity of preaching the Gospel, he hired a

house for the purpose, and paid for it, St. Chrysostom observes,

by the fruits of his own labour. Here he received all that came

unto him, and preached the Gospel with glorious success; so that

his bonds became the means of spreading the truth, and he became

celebrated even in the palace of Nero, Php 1:12, 13; and we find

that there were several saints, even in Caesar's household,

Php 4:22, which were, no doubt, the fruits of the apostle's

ministry. It is said that during his two years' residence here he

became acquainted with Seneca, the philosopher, between whom and

the apostle an epistolary correspondence took place. In an ancient

MS. of Seneca's epistles in my own possession, these letters are

extant, and are in number fourteen and have a prologue to them

written by St. Jerome. That they are very ancient cannot be

doubted; but learned men have long ago agreed that they are

neither worthy of Paul nor of Seneca.

While he was in captivity, the Church at Philippi, to which he

was exceedingly dear, sent him some pecuniary assistance by the

hands of their minister, Epaphroditus, who, it appears, risked his

life in the service of the apostle, and was taken with a dangerous

malady. When he got well, he returned to Philippi, and, it is

supposed, carried with him that epistle which is still extant; and

from it we learn that Timothy was then at Rome with Paul, and that

he had the prospect of being shortly delivered from his captivity.

See Php 1:12, 13; 2:25; 4:15, 16, 18, &c.

Verse 31. Preaching the kingdom of God] Showing the spiritual

nature of the true Church, under the reign of the Messiah. For an

explanation of this phrase, See Clarke on Mt 3:2.

Those things which concern the Lord] The Redeemer of the world

was to be represented as the LORD; as JESUS; and as the CHRIST. As

the Lord, οκυριος, the sole potentate, upholding all things by

the word of his power; governing the world and the Church; having

all things under his control, and all his enemies under his feet;

in short, the maker and upholder of all things, and the judge of

all men. As Jesus-the Saviour; he who saves, delivers, and

preserves; and especially he who saves his people from their sins.

For the explanation of the word JESUS, see the note on Joh 1:17.

As Christ-the same as Messiah; both signifying the ANOINTED: he

who was appointed by the Lord to this great and glorious work; who

had the Spirit without measure, and who anoints, communicates the

gifts and graces of that Spirit to all true believers. St. Paul

taught the things which concerned or belonged to the Lord Jesus

Christ. He proved him to be the Messiah foretold by the prophets,

and expected by the Jews; he spoke of what he does as the Lord,

what he does as Jesus, and what he does as Christ. These contain

the sum and substance of all that is called the Gospel of Christ.

Yet, the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, necessarily

include the whole account of his incarnation, preaching in Judea,

miracles, persecutions, passion, death, burial, resurrection,

ascension, intercession, and his sending down the gifts and graces

of the Holy Spirit. These were the subjects on which the apostle

preached for two whole years, during his imprisonment at Rome.

With all confidence] παρρησιας, Liberty of speech; perfect

freedom to say all he pleased, and when he pleased. He had the

fullest toleration from the Roman government to preach as he

pleased, and what he pleased; and the unbelieving Jews had no

power to prevent him.

It is supposed that it was during this residence at Rome that he

converted Onesimus, and sent him back to his master Philemon, with

the epistle which is still extant. And it is from Phm 1:23, 24, of

that epistle, that we learn that Paul had then with him Epaphras,

Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke.

Here St. Luke's account of Paul's travels and sufferings ends;

and it is probable that this history was written soon after the

end of the two years mentioned in Ac 28:30.

That the apostle visited many places after this, suffered much

in the great cause of Christianity, and preached the Gospel of

Jesus with amazing success, is generally believed. How he came to

be liberated we are not told; but it is likely that, having been

kept in this sort of confinement for about two years, and none

appearing against him, he was released by the imperial order.

Concerning the time, place, and manner of his death, we have

little certainty. It is commonly believed that, when a general

persecution was raised against the Christians by Nero, about A.D.

64, under pretence that they had set Rome on fire, both St. Paul

and St. Peter then sealed the truth with their blood; the latter

being crucified with his head downward; the former being beheaded,

either in A.D. 64 or 65, and buried in the Via Ostiensis.

EUSEBIUS, Hist, Eccles. lib. ii. cap. 25, intimates that the tombs

of these two apostles, with their inscriptions, were extant in his

time; and quotes as his authority a holy man of the name of Caius,

who wrote against the sect of the Cataphrygians, who has asserted

this, as from his personal knowledge. See Eusebius, by Reading,

vol. i. p. 83; and see Dr. Lardner, in his life of this apostle,

who examines this account with his usual perspicuity and candour.

Other writers have been more particular concerning his death: they

say that it was not by the command of Nero that he was martyred,

but by that of the prefects of the city, Nero being then absent;

that he was beheaded at Aquae Salviae, about three miles from

Rome, on Feb. 22; that he could not be crucified, as Peter was,

because he was a freeman of the city of Rome. But there is great

uncertainty on these subjects, so that we cannot positively rely

on any account that even the ancients have transmitted to us

concerning the death of this apostle; and much less on the

accounts given by the moderns; and least of all on those which are

to be found in the Martyrologists. Whether Paul ever returned

after this to Rome has not yet been satisfactorily proved. It is

probable that he did, and suffered death there, as stated above;

but still we have no certainty.

THERE are several subscriptions to this book in different

manuscripts: these are the principal:-

-The Acts of the Apostles

-The Acts of the holy Apostles

-The end of the Acts of the holy Apostles, written by Luke the

Evangelist, and fellow traveller of the illustrious Apostle Paul

-By the holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke, &c. &c.

The versions are not less various in their subscriptions.

The end of the Acts, that is, the History of the holy


Under the auspices and help of God, the book of the Acts of the

pure Apostles is finished; whom we humbly supplicate to obtain us

mercy by all their prayers. Amen. And may praise be ascribed to

God, the Lord of the universe!-ARABIC.

This (book) of the Acts of the Apostles, which has been by many

translated into the Roman tongue, is translated from the Roman and

Greek tongue into the AEthiopic.-AETHIOPIC.

On the nature and importance of the Acts of the Apostles, see

what is said in the preface to this book. To which may be added

the following observations, taken from the conclusion of Dr.

Dodd's Commentary.

"The plainness and simplicity of the narration are strong

circumstances in its favour; the writer appears to have been very

honest and impartial, and to have set down, very fairly, the

objections which were made to Christianity, both by Jews and

heathens, and the reflections which enemies cast upon it, and upon

the first preachers of it. He has likewise, with a just and honest

freedom, mentioned the weaknesses, faults, and prejudices, both of

the apostles and their converts. There is a great and remarkable

harmony between the occasional hints dispersed up and down in St.

Paul's epistles, and the facts recorded in this history; insomuch

as that it is generally acknowledged that the history of the Acts

is the best clue to guide us in the studying of the epistles

written by that apostle. The other parts of the New Testament do

likewise agree with this history, and give great confirmation to

it; for the doctrines and principles are every where uniformly the

same; the conclusions of the gospels contain a brief account of

those things which are more particularly related in the beginning

of the Acts. And there are frequent intimations, in other parts of

the gospels, that such an effusion of the Spirit was expected; and

that with a view to the very design which the apostles and

primitive Christians are said to have carried on, by virtue of

that extraordinary effusion which Christ poured out upon his

disciples after his ascension; and, finally, the epistles of the

other apostles, as well as those of St. Paul, plainly suppose such

things to have happened as are related in the Acts of the

Apostles; so that the history of the Acts is one of the most

important parts of the sacred history, for neither the gospels nor

epistles could have been so clearly understood without it; but by

the help of it the whole scheme of the Christian revelation is set

before us in an easy and manifest view.

"Even the incidental things mentioned by St. Luke are so exactly

agreeable to all the accounts which remain of the best ancient

historians, among the Jews and heathens, that no person who had

forged such a history, in later ages, could have had that external

confirmation, but would have betrayed himself by alluding to some

customs or opinions since sprung up; or by misrepresenting some

circumstance, or using some phrase or expression not then in use.

The plea of forgery, therefore, in later ages, cannot be allowed;

and for a man to have published a history of such things so early

as St. Luke wrote; (that is, while some of the apostles and many

other persons were alive who were concerned in the transactions

which he has recorded;) if his account had not been punctually

true, could have been only to have exposed himself to an easy

confutation and certain infamy.

"As, therefore, the Acts of the Apostles are in themselves

consistent and uniform, the incidental things agreeable to the

best ancient historians which have come down to us, and the main

facts supported and confirmed by the other books of the New

Testament, and by the unanimous testimony of so many of the

ancient fathers, we may, I think, very fairly, and with great

justness, conclude that, if any history of former times deserves

credit, the Acts of the Apostles ought to be received and

credited; and, if the history of the Acts of the Apostles be true,

Christianity cannot be false: for a doctrine so good in itself,

and attended with so many miraculous and Divine testimonies, has

an the possible masks of a true revelation."

On St. PAUL'S character and conduct, see the observations at the

end of Ac 9:43, where the subject is particularly considered.

The book of the ACTS is not only a history of the Church, the

most ancient and most impartial, as it is the most authentic

extant, but it is also a history of God's grace and providence,

The manner in which he has exerted himself in favour of

Christianity, and of the persons who were originally employed to

disseminate its doctrines, shows us the highest marks of the

Divine approbation. Had not that cause been of God, could he have

so signally interposed in its behalf? Would he have wrought such a

series of miracles for its propagation and support? And would all

its genuine professors have submitted to sustain the loss of all

things, had not his own Spirit, by its consolations in their

hearts, given them to feel that his favour was better than life?

That the hardships suffered by the primitive apostles and

Christians were great, the facts themselves related in this book

sufficiently declare: that their consolation and happiness were

abundant, the cheerful manner in which they met and sustained

those hardships demonstrates. He who cordially embraced

Christianity found himself no loser by it; if he lost earthly good

in consequence, it was infinitely overbalanced by the spiritual

good which he received. Paul himself, who suffered most, had this

compensated by superabounding happiness. Wherever the Gospel

comes, it finds nothing but darkness, sin, and misery; wherever it

is received, it communicates light, holiness, and felicity.

Reader, magnify thy God and Saviour, who hath called thee to such

a state of salvation. Should thou neglect it, how grievous must

thy punishment be! Not only receive its doctrines, as a system of

wisdom and goodness, but receive them as motives of conduct, and

as a rule of life; and show thy conscientious belief of them, by

holding the truth in righteousness, and thus adorn these doctrines

of God thy Saviour in all things.-Amen.

I have often with pleasure, and with great advantage to my

subject, quoted Dr. Lardner, whose elaborate works in defense of

Divine revelation are really beyond all praise. The conclusion of

his Credibility of the Gospel History is peculiarly appropriate;

and the introduction of it here can need no apology. I hope, with

him, I may also say:-

"I have now performed what I undertook, and have shown that the

account given by the sacred writers of persons and things is

confirmed by other ancient authors of the best note. There is

nothing in the books of the New Testament unsuitable to the age in

which they are supposed to have been written. There appears in

these writers a knowledge of the affairs of those times, not to be

found in authors of later ages. We are hereby assured that the

books of the New Testament are genuine, and that they were written

by persons who lived at or near the time of those events of which

they have given the history.

"Any one may be sensible how hard it is for the most learned,

acute, and cautious man, to write a book in the character of some

person of an earlier age; and not betray his own time by some

mistake about the affairs of the age in which he pretends to place

himself; or by allusions to customs or principles since sprung up;

or by some phrase or expression not then in use. It is no easy

thing to escape all these dangers in the smallest performance,

though it be a treatise of theory or speculation: these hazards

are greatly increased when the work is of any length; and

especially if it be historical, and be concerned with characters

and customs. It is yet more difficult to carry on such a design in

a work consisting of several pieces, written, to all appearance,

by several persons. Many indeed are desirous to deceive, but all

hate to be deceived; and therefore, though attempts have been made

to impose upon the world in this way, they have never, or very

rarely, succeeded; but have been detected and exposed by the skill

and vigilance of those who have been concerned for the truth.

"The volume of the New Testament consists of several pieces:

these are ascribed to eight several persons; and there are the

strongest appearances that they were not all written by any one

hand, but by as many persons as they are ascribed to. There are

lesser differences in the relations of some facts, and such

seeming contradictions as would never have happened if these books

had been all the work of one person, or of several who wrote in

concert. There are as many peculiarities of temper and style as

there are names of writers; divers of which show no depth of

genius nor compass of knowledge! Here are representations of

titles, posts, behaviour of persons of higher and lower ranks in

many parts of the world; persons are introduced, and their

characters are set in a full light; here is a history of things

done in several cities and countries; and there are allusions to a

vast variety of customs and tenets, of persons of several nations,

sects, and religions. The whole is written without affectation,

with the greatest simplicity and plainness, and is confirmed by

other ancient writers of unquestionable authority. If it be

difficult for a person of learning and experience to compose a

small treatise concerning matters of speculation, with the

characters of a more early age than that in which he writes, it is

next to impossible that such a work of considerable length,

consisting of several pieces, with a great variety of historical

facts, representations of characters, principles, and customs of

several nations, and distant countries, of persons of ranks and

degrees, of many interests and parties, should be performed by

eight several persons, the most of them unlearned, without any

appearance of concert.

"I might perhaps call this argument a demonstration, if that

term had not been often misapplied by men of warm imagination, and

been bestowed upon reasonings that have but a small degree of

probability. But though it should not be a strict demonstration

that these writings are genuine, or though it be not absolutely

impossible, in the nature of the thing, that the books of the New

Testament should have been composed in a later age than that to

which they are assigned, and of which they have innumerable

characters, yet, I think, it is in the highest degree improbable,

and altogether incredible.

"If the books of the New Testament were written by persons who

lived before the destruction of Jerusalem, that is, if they were

written at the time in which they are said to have been written,

the things related in them are true. If they had not been matter

of fact, they would not have been credited by any persons near

that time, and in those parts of the world in which they are said

to have been done, but would have been treated as the most

notorious lies and falsehoods. Suppose three or four books should

now appear amongst us, in the language most generally understood,

giving an account of many remarkable and extraordinary events,

which had happened in some kingdom of Europe, and in the most

noted cities of the countries next adjoining to it; some of them

said to have happened between sixty and seventy gears ago, others

between twenty and thirty, others nearer our own time; would they

not be looked upon as the most manifest and ridiculous forgeries

and impostures that ever were contrived? Would great numbers of

persons in those very places, change their religious principles

and practices upon the credit of things reported to be publicly

done, which no man ever heard of before? Or, rather, is it

possible that such a design as this would be conceived by any

sober and serious persons, or even the most wild and extravagant?

If the history of the New Testament be credible, the Christian

religion is true. If the things that were related to have been

done by Jesus, and by his followers, by virtue of powers derived

from him, do not prove a person to come from God, and that his

doctrine is true and divine, nothing can. And as Jesus does here,

in the circumstances of his birth, life, sufferings, and after

exaltation, and in the success of his doctrine, answer the

description of the great person promised and foretold in the Old

Testament, he is at the same time showed to be the Messiah.

"From the agreement of the writers of the New Testament with

other ancient writers, we are not only assured that these books

are genuine, but also that they are come down to us pure and

uncorrupted, without any considerable interpolations or

alterations. If such had been made in them, there would have

appeared some smaller differences at least between them and other

ancient writings.

"There has been in all ages a wicked propensity in mankind to

advance their own notions and fancies by deceits and forgeries:

they have been practised by heathens, Jews, and Christians, in

support of imaginary historical facts, religious schemes and

practices, and political interests. With these views some whole

books have been forged, and passages inserted into others of

undoubted authority. Many of the Christian writers of the second

and third centuries, and of the following ages, appear to have had

false notions concerning the state of Judea between the nativity

of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem; and concerning many

other things occasionally mentioned in the New Testament. The

consent of the best ancient writers with those of the New

Testament is a proof that these books are still untouched, and

that they have not been new modelled and altered by Christians of

later times, in conformity to their own peculiar sentiments.

"This may be reckoned an argument that the generality of

Christians had a very high veneration for these books; or else

that the several sects among them have had an eye upon each other,

that no alterations might be made in those writings to which they

have all appealed. It is also an argument that the Divine

providence has all along watched over and guarded these books, (a

very fit object of especial care,) which contain the best of

principles, were apparently written with the best views, and have

in them inimitable characters of truth and simplicity."-See Dr.

Lardner's WORKS, vol. i. p. 419.

Let him answer these arguments who can.-A. C.

Copyright information for Clarke