Acts 11

Peter Defends His Actions to the Jerusalem Church

Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles too had accepted
See BDAG 221 s.v. δέχομαι 5 for this translation of ἐδέξαντο (edexanto) here.
the word of God.
Here the phrase “word of God” is another way to describe the gospel (note the preceding verb ἐδέξαντο, edexanto, “accepted”). The phrase could also be translated “the word [message] from God.”
So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers
Or “the Jewish Christians”; Grk “those of the circumcision.” Within the larger group of Christians were some whose loyalties ran along ethnic-religious lines.
took issue with
Or “believers disputed with,” “believers criticized” (BDAG 231 s.v. διακρίνω 5.b).
saying, “You went to
Or “You were a guest in the home of” (according to L&N 23.12).
uncircumcised men and shared a meal with
Or “and ate with.” It was table fellowship and the possibility of eating unclean food that disturbed them.
But Peter began and explained it to them point by point,
Or “to them in logical sequence,” “to them in order.” BDAG 490 s.v. καθεξῆς has “explain to someone point by point” for this phrase. This is the same term used in Luke 1:3.
“I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision,
This term describes a supernatural vision and reflects a clear distinction from something imagined (BDAG 718 s.v. ὅραμα 1). Peter repeated the story virtually word for word through v. 13. The repetition with this degree of detail shows the event’s importance.
an object something like a large sheet descending,
Or “coming down.”
being let down from heaven
Or “the sky” (the same Greek word means both “heaven” and “sky”).
by its four corners, and it came to me.
As I stared
Grk “Staring I looked into it.” The participle ἀτενίσας (atenisas) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.
I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles,
Or “snakes.” Grk “creeping things.” According to L&N 4.51, in most biblical contexts the term (due to the influence of Hebrew classifications such as Gen 1:25–26, 30) included small four-footed animals like rats, mice, frogs, toads, salamanders, and lizards. In this context, however, where “creeping things” are contrasted with “four-footed animals,” the English word “reptiles,” which primarily but not exclusively designates snakes, is probably more appropriate.
and wild birds.
Grk “the birds of the sky” or “the birds of the heaven”; the Greek word οὐρανός (ouranos) may be translated either “sky” or “heaven,” depending on the context. The idiomatic expression “birds of the sky” refers to wild birds as opposed to domesticated fowl (cf. BDAG 809 s.v. πετεινόν).
I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; slaughter
Or “kill.” Traditionally θῦσον (quson) is translated “kill,” but in the case of animals intended for food, “slaughter” is more appropriate.
and eat!’
But I said, ‘Certainly not, Lord, for nothing defiled or ritually unclean
Possibly there is a subtle distinction in meaning between κοινός (koinos) and ἀκάθαρτος (akaqartos) here, but according to L&N 53.39 it is difficult to determine precise differences in meaning based on existing contexts. The sentiment Peter expressed is like Ezek 4:14.
has ever entered my mouth!’
But the voice replied a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not consider
Or “declare.” The wording matches Acts 10:15.
ritually unclean!’
10 This happened three times, and then everything was pulled up to heaven again. 11 At that very moment,
Grk “And behold.”
three men sent to me from Caesarea
Caesarea was a city on the coast of Palestine south of Mount Carmel (not Caesarea Philippi). See the note on Caesarea in Acts 10:1.
See BDAG 418 s.v. ἐφίστημι 1 for this meaning for ἐπέστησαν (epestēsan) here.
the house where we were staying.
The word “staying” is not in the Greek text but is implied.
12 The Spirit told me to accompany them without hesitation. These six brothers
Six witnesses is three times more than what would normally be required. They could confirm the events were not misrepresented by Peter.
also went with me, and we entered the man’s house.
13 He informed us how he had seen an angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter, 14 who will speak a message
Grk “words” (ῥήματα, rhēmata), but in this context the overall message is meant rather than the individual words.
to you by which you and your entire household will be saved.’
15 Then as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on
Or “came down on.”
them just as he did
The words “he did” are not in the Greek text but are implied. They form an ellipsis which must be supplied for the modern English reader. Some modern translations supply “it” rather than “he” because the gender of πνεῦμα (pneuma) in Greek is neuter, but there are sufficient NT contexts that use masculine pronouns to refer to the Spirit to justify the use of a masculine pronoun here in the translation.
on us at the beginning.
At the beginning is an allusion to Acts 2 and Pentecost. The beginning is a way to refer to the start of the period of the realization of Jesus’ promise in Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8. Peter was arguing that God gave Gentiles the same benefits he gave the Jews at the start of their mission.
16 And I remembered the word of the Lord,
The word of the Lord is a technical expression in OT literature, often referring to a divine prophetic utterance (e.g., Gen 15:1, Isa 1:10, Jonah 1:1). In the NT it occurs 15 times: 3 times as ῥῆμα τοῦ κυρίου (rhēma tou kuriou; here and in Luke 22:61, 1 Pet 1:25) and 12 times as λόγος τοῦ κυρίου (logos tou kuriou; Acts 8:25; 13:44, 48, 49; 15:35, 36; 16:32; 19:10, 20; 1 Thess 1:8, 4:15; 2 Thess 3:1). As in the OT, this phrase focuses on the prophetic nature and divine origin of what has been said.
as he used to say,
The imperfect verb ἔλεγεν (elegen) is taken as a customary imperfect.
‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’
John…Spirit. This remark repeats Acts 1:5.
17 Therefore if God
Codex Bezae (D) and {a few other Western witnesses} here lack ὁ θεός (ho theos, “God”), perhaps because these scribes considered the Holy Spirit to be the gift of Christ rather than the gift of God; thus leaving the subject implicit would naturally draw the reader back to v. 16 to see the Lord Jesus as the bestower of the Spirit.
gave them the same gift
That is, the same gift of the Holy Spirit.
as he also gave us after believing
Or “gave us when we believed”; or “gave us after we believed”; or “gave us who believed”; or “gave them when they believed the same gift as he also gave us.” The aorist dative plural participle πιστεύσασιν (pisteusasin) can be understood in several different ways: (1) It could modify ἡμῖν (hēmin, “us”) or αὐτοῖς (autois, “them”). Proximity (it immediately follows ἡμῖν) would suggest that it belongs with ἡμῖν, so the last option (“gave them when they believed the same gift he also gave us”) is less likely. (2) The participle could be either adverbial or adjectival, modifying ἡμῖν. This decision is primarily a contextual one. The point Peter made is not whether or not the Gentiles believed, since both groups (“us” and “they”) had believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. The point was whether or not the Gentiles received the Spirit when they believed, just as Jewish Christians had received the Spirit on the day of Pentecost when they believed. Translated as an adjectival participle, πιστεύσασιν only affirms the fact of belief, however, and raises somewhat of a theological problem if one realizes, “Would God have given the Gentiles the Spirit if they had not believed?” (In other words, belief in itself is a theological prerequisite for receiving the Spirit. As such, in the case of the Gentiles, it is assumed.) Thus in context it makes more sense to understand the participle πιστεύσασιν as adverbial, related to the time of belief in connection with the giving of the Spirit. (3) The participle πιστεύσασιν as a temporal participle can refer to action antecedent to the action of the main verb ἔδωκεν (edōken) or contemporaneous with it. Logically, at least, the gift of the Spirit followed belief in the case of the original Christians, who had believed before the day of Pentecost. In the case of Cornelius and his household, belief and the reception of the Spirit were virtually simultaneous. One can argue that Peter is “summarizing” the experience of Jewish Christians, and therefore the actions of belief and reception of the Spirit, while historically separate, have been “telescoped” into one (“gave them the same gift as he gave us when we believed”), but to be technically accurate the participle πιστεύσασιν should be translated “gave them the same gift as he also gave us after we believed.” A number of these problems can be avoided, however, by using a translation in English that maintains some of the ambiguity of the Greek original. Thus “if God gave them the same gift as he also gave us after believing” is used, where the phrase “after believing” can refer either to “them” or to “us,” or both.
in the Lord Jesus Christ,
Or “Messiah”; both “Christ” (Greek) and “Messiah” (Hebrew and Aramaic) mean “one who has been anointed.”
who was I to hinder
Or “prevent,” “forbid” (BDAG 580 s.v. κωλύω 1.a). Peter’s point is that he will not stand in the way of God.
18 When they heard this,
Grk “these things.”
they ceased their objections
Or “became silent,” but this would create an apparent contradiction with the subsequent action of praising God. The point, in context, is that they ceased objecting to what Peter had done.
and praised
Or “glorified.”
God, saying, “So then, God has granted the repentance
Here the summary phrase for responding to the gospel is the repentance that leads to life. Note how the presence of life is tied to the presence of the Spirit (cf. John 4:7–42; 7:37–39).
that leads to life even to the Gentiles.”
In the Greek text the phrase even to the Gentiles is in an emphatic position.

Activity in the Church at Antioch

19  Now those who had been scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen
The phrase over Stephen means in connection with Stephen’s death. See Acts 8:1b–3.
went as far as
Or “finally reached.” The translations “went as far as” and “finally reached” for διῆλθον (diēlqon) in this verse are given in L&N 15.17.
Phoenicia was an area along the Mediterranean coast north of Palestine.
Grk “and Cyprus,” but καί (kai) has not been translated since English normally uses a coordinating conjunction only between the last two elements in a series of three or more.
Cyprus was a large island in the Mediterranean off the south coast of Asia Minor.
and Antioch,
Antioch was a city in Syria (not Antioch in Pisidia). This was probably the third largest city in the Greco-Roman world (Alexandria in Egypt was the second largest, and Rome the largest) and was the seat of government in Syria. Five miles away was a major temple to Artemis, Apollo, and Astarte, major pagan deities.
speaking the message
Grk “word.”
to no one but Jews.
20 But there were some men from Cyprus
Cyprus was a large island in the Mediterranean off the south coast of Asia Minor.
and Cyrene
Cyrene was a city on the northern African coast west of Egypt.
among them who came
Grk “among them, coming to Antioch began to speak.” The participle ἐλθόντες (elthontes) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.
to Antioch
Antioch was a city in Syria (not Antioch in Pisidia). See the note in 11:19.
and began to speak to the Greeks
The statement that some men from Cyprus and Cyrene…began to speak to the Greeks shows that Peter’s experience of reaching out to the Gentiles was not unique.
too, proclaiming the good news of the Lord Jesus.
21 The
Grk “And the.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here.
hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed
The participle πιστεύσας (pisteusas) is articular and thus cannot be adverbial. It is adjectival, modifying ἀριθμός (arithmos), but has been translated into English as a relative clause (“who believed”).
Again, the expression turned is a summary term for responding to the gospel.
to the Lord.
22 A report
Grk “Word.”
about them came to the attention
Grk “was heard in the ears,” an idiom. L&N 24.67 states that the idiom means “to hear in secret” (which it certainly does in Matt 10:27), but secrecy does not seem to be part of the context here, and there is no particular reason to suggest the report was made in secret.
of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas
‡ Most mss read the infinitive “to travel” after “Barnabas.” διελθεῖν (dielqein) is found before ἕως (heōs) in D E Ψ 33 Maj. and some versional mss. It is lacking in Ƥ74 א A B 81 1739 pc and some versional mss. Although the infinitive with ἕως fits Lukan style, it has the appearance of a scribal clarification. The infinitive has the earmarks of a Western expansion on the text and thus is unlikely to be original. NA27 has the infinitive in brackets, indicating doubt as to its authenticity.
to Antioch.
Antioch was a city in Syria (not Antioch in Pisidia). See the note in 11:19. Again the Jerusalem church exercised an oversight role.
23 When
Grk “Antioch, who when.” The relative pronoun was omitted and a new sentence was begun in the translation at this point to improve the English style, due to the length of the sentence in Greek.
he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain true
BDAG 883 s.v. προσμένω 1.a.β has “remain true to the Lord” for προσμένειν (prosmenein) in this verse.
He…encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord. The call to faithfulness is frequent in Acts (2:40; 14:22; 15:32; 16:39; 20:1–2).
to the Lord with devoted hearts,
Grk “with purpose of heart”; BDAG 869 s.v. πρόθεσις 2.a translates this phrase “purpose of heart, i.e. devotion” here.
24 because he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith, and a significant number of people
Grk “a significant crowd.”
were brought to the Lord.
25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch.
Antioch was a city in Syria (not Antioch in Pisidia). See the note in 11:19.
Grk “So it happened that” The introductory phrase ἐγένετο (egeneto, “it happened that”), common in Luke (69 times) and Acts (54 times), is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated.
for a whole year Barnabas and Saul
Grk “year they”; the referents (Barnabas and Saul) have been specified in the translation for clarity.
met with the church and taught a significant number of people.
Grk “a significant crowd.”
Now it was in Antioch
Antioch was a city in Syria (not Antioch in Pisidia). See the note in 11:19.
that the disciples were first called Christians.
The term Christians appears only here, in Acts 26:28, and 1 Pet 4:16 in the NT.

Famine Relief for Judea

27  At that time
Grk “In these days,” but the dative generally indicates a specific time.
The word “some” is not in the Greek text, but is usually used in English when an unspecified number is mentioned.
Prophets are mentioned only here and in 13:1 and 21:10 in Acts.
came down
Came down from Jerusalem. Antioch in Syria lies due north of Jerusalem. In Western languages it is common to speak of north as “up” and south as “down,” but the NT maintains the Hebrew idiom which speaks of any direction away from Jerusalem as down (since Mount Zion was thought of in terms of altitude).
from Jerusalem to Antioch.
Antioch was a city in Syria (not Antioch in Pisidia). See the note in 11:19.
28 One of them, named Agabus, got up
Grk “getting up, predicted.” The participle ἀναστάς (anastas) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.
and predicted
Or “made clear”; Grk “indicated beforehand” (BDAG 920 s.v. σημαίνω 2).
by the Spirit that a severe
Grk “great.”
This famine is one of the firmly fixed dates in Acts. It took place from a.d. 45–48. The events described in chap. 11 of Acts occurred during the early part of that period.
was about to come over the whole inhabited world.
Or “whole Roman Empire.” While the word οἰκουμένη (oikoumenē) does occasionally refer specifically to the Roman Empire, BDAG 699 s.v. οἰκουνένη 2 does not list this passage (only Acts 24:5 and 17:6).
Grk “world, which.” The relative pronoun (“which”) was replaced by the demonstrative pronoun “this” and a new sentence was begun in the translation at this point to improve the English style, due to the length of the sentence in Greek.
took place during the reign of Claudius.)
This is best taken as a parenthetical note by the author. Claudius was the Roman emperor Tiberius Claudius Nero Germanicus, known as Claudius, who ruled from a.d. 41–54.
29 So the disciples, each in accordance with his financial ability,
So BDAG 410 s.v. εὐπορέω.
Or “determined,” “resolved.”
to send relief
Grk “to send [something] for a ministry,” but today it is common to speak of sending relief for victims of natural disasters.
The financial relief reflects the oneness of the church, meeting the needs of another (even racially distinct) community. Jerusalem, having ministered to them, now received ministry back. A later collection from Greece is noted in Rom 15:25–27, but it reflects the same spirit as this gift.
to the brothers living in Judea.
30 They did so,
Grk “Judea, which they did.” The relative pronoun was omitted and a new sentence was begun in the translation at this point to improve the English style, due to the length of the sentence in Greek.
sending their financial aid
The words “their financial aid” are not in the Greek text, but are implied. Direct objects in Greek were often omitted when clear from the context, but must be supplied for the modern English reader.
to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

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