They therefore that were scattered abroad (hoi men oun diasparentes). Precisely the same words used in Act_8:4 about those scattered by Saul (which see) and a direct reference to it is made by the next words, “upon the tribulation that arose about Stephen” (apo tēs thlipseōs tēs genomenēs epi Stephanōi). As a result of (apo), in the case of (epi) Stephen. From that event Luke followed Saul through his conversion and back to Jerusalem and to Tarsus. Then he showed the activity of Peter outside of Jerusalem as a result of the cessation of the persecution from the conversion of Saul with the Gentile Pentecost in Caesarea and the outcome in Jerusalem. Now Luke starts over again from the same persecution by Saul and runs a new line of events up to Antioch parallel to the other, probably partly following.
Except to Jews only (ei mē monon Ioudaiois). Clearly these disciples did not know anything about the events in Caesarea and at first their flight preceded that time. But it was a wonderful episode, the eager and loyal preaching of the fleeing disciples. The culmination in Antioch was probably after the report of Peter about Caesarea. This Antioch by the Orontes was founded 300 b.c. by Seleucus Nicator and was one of five cities so named by the Seleucides. It became the metropolis of Syria though the Arabs held Damascus first. Antioch ranked next to Rome and Alexandria in size, wealth, power, and vice. There were many Jews in the cosmopolitan population of half a million. It was destined to supplant Jerusalem as the centre of Christian activity.
Now they … – This verse introduces a new train of historical remark; and from this point the course of the history of the Acts of the Apostles takes a new direction. Thus far, the history had recorded chiefly the preaching of the gospel to the Jews. From this point the history records the efforts made to convert the Gentiles. It begins with the labors put forth in the important city of Antioch (Act_11:19-20); and as, during the work of grace that occurred in that city, the labors of the apostle Paul were especially sought (Act_11:25-26), the sacred writer thenceforth confines the history mainly to his travels and labors.
Which were scattered abroad – See Act_8:1.
As far as Phenice – Phoenice, or Phoenicia, was a province of Syria, which in its largest sense comprehended a narrow strip of country lying on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, and extending from Antioch to the borders of Egypt. But Phenice Proper extended only from the cities of Laodicea to Tyre, and included only the territories of Tyre and Sidon. This country was called sometimes simply “Canaan.” See the notes on Mat_15:22.
And Cyprus – An island off the coast of Asia Minor, in the Mediterranean Sea. See the notes on Act_4:36.
And Antioch – There were two cities of this name, one situated in Pisidia in Asia Minor (see Act_13:14); the other, referred to here, was situated on the Orontes River, and was long, the capital of Syria. It was built by Seleucus Nicanor, and was called Antioch in honor of his father Antiochus. It was founded in 301 b.c. It is not mentioned in the Old Testament, but is several times mentioned in the Apocrypha and in the New Testament. It was long the most powerful city of the East, and was inferior only to Seleucia and Alexandria. It was famous for the fact that the right of citizenship was conferred by Seleucus on the Jews as well as the Greeks and Macedonians, so that here they had the privilege of worship in their own way without molestation. It is probable that the Christians would be regarded merely as a sect of Jews, and would be here suffered to celebrate their worship without interruption.
On this account it may have been that the early Christians regarded this city as of such particular importance, because here they could find a refuge from persecution, and be permitted to worship God without molestation. This city was honored as a Roman colony, a metropolis, and an asylum. It was large; was almost square; had many gaines; was adorned with fine fountains; and was a city of great opulence. It was, however, subject to earthquakes, and was several times nearly destroyed. In the year 588 it experienced an earthquake in which 60,000 persons were destroyed. It was conquered by the Saracens in 638 a.d., and, after some changes and revolutions, was taken during the Crusades, after a long and bloody siege, by Godfrey of Bouillon, June 3, 1098 ad. In 1268 it was taken by the Sultan of Egypt, who demolished it, and placed it under the dominion of the Turk. Antioch is now called Antakia, and contains about 10,000 inhabitants (Robinson’s Calmet). “There was everything in the situation and circumstances of the city,” say Conybeare and Howson (“Life and Epistles of Paul,” vol. 1, p. 121), “to make it a place of concourse for all classes and kinds of people. By its harbor of Seleucia it was in communication with all the trade of the Mediterranean; and, through the open country behind the Lebanon, it was conveniently approached by the caravans from Mesopotamia and Arabia. It united the inland advantages of Aleppo with the maritime opportunities of Smyrna. It was almost an Oriental Rome, in which all the forms of the civilized life of the empire found some representative. Through the first two centuries of the Christian era it was what Constantinople became afterward, ‘the Gate of the East.’ “If any city in the first century was worthy to be called the Pagan Queen and Metropolis of the East, that city was Antioch. She was represented, in a famous allegorical statue, as a female figure, seated on a rock and crowned, with the river Orontes at her feet” (Conybeare and Howson, vol. 1, p. 125).
Preaching the word – The Word of God, the Gospel.
To none but unto the Jews only – They had the common prejudices of the Jews, that the offers of salvation were to be made only to Jews.
A.T. Robertson Act 11:20
Spake (elaloun). Inchoative imperfect active, began to speak. For them it was an experiment.
Unto the Greeks also (kai pros tous Hellēnas). This is undoubtedly the correct reading in spite of Hellenists (Hellēnistas) or Grecian Jews in B E H L P. Hellēnas is read by A and D and a corrector of Aleph. The presence of “also” or “even” (kai) in Aleph A B makes no sense unless “Greeks” is correct. Hellenists or Grecian Jews as Christians were common enough as is seen in Acts 2; Act_6:1-15. Saul also had preached to the Hellenists in Jerusalem (Act_9:29). Hellenists were merely one kind of Jews in contrast with those who spoke Aramaic (Act_6:1-15). It is true that the case of Cornelius was first in importance, but it is not clear that it was before the work in Antioch. Probably the report of the work among the Greeks in Antioch reached Jerusalem after Peter’s defence in 11:1-18. That explains the calm tone about it and also why Barnabas and not Peter was sent to investigate. Peter and John (Acts 8 ) had condoned Philip’s work in Samaria and Peter was the agent in the work among the Romans in Caesarea. His position was now well-known and his services discounted for this new crisis. These Greeks in Antioch were apparently in part pure heathen and not “God-fearers” like Cornelius. A man of wisdom was called for. These preachers were themselves Hellenists (Act_11:19) and open to the lessons from their environment without a vision such as Peter had at Joppa. “It was a departure of startling boldness” (Furneaux) by laymen outside of the circle of official leaders.
Adam Clarke Act 11:20
Men of – Cyrene – The metropolis of the Cyrenaica; a country of Africa, bounded on the east by Marmarica, on the west by the Regio Syrtica, on the north by the Mediterranean, and on the south by the Sahara. Cyrene is now called Cairoan. This city, according to Eusebius, was built in the 37th Olympiad, about 630 years before Christ. In consequence of a revolt of its inhabitants, it was destroyed by the Romans; but they afterwards rebuilt it. It was for a long time subject to the Arabs, but is now in the hands of the Turks.
Spake unto the Grecians – ἙλληνιϚας, The Hellenists. Who these were, we have already seen Act_6:1-15 and Act_9:29, viz. Jews living in Greek cities and speaking the Greek language. But, instead of ἙλληνιϚας, Grecians, Ἑλληνας, Greeks, is the reading of AD*, Syriac, all the Arabic, Coptic, Ethiopic, Vulgate, some copies of the Itala, Eusebius, Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Oecumenius. On this evidence, Griesbach has admitted it into the text; and few critics entertain any doubt of the genuineness of the reading. This intimates that, besides preaching the Gospel to the Hellenistic Jews, some of them preached it to heathen Greeks; for, were we to adopt the common reading, it would be a sort of actum agere; for it is certain that the Hellenistic Jews had already received the Gospel. See Act_6:1. And it is likely that these Cyprians and Cyrenians had heard of Peter’s mission to Caesarea, and they followed his example by offering the Christian faith to the heathen. It is worthy of remark that the Jews generally called all nations of the world Greeks; as the Asiatics, to the present day, call all the nations of Europe Franks.
A.T. Robertson Act 11:21
The hand of the Lord was with them (ēn cheir kuriou met’ autōn). This O.T. phrase (Exo_9:3; Isa_59:1) is used by Luke (Luk_1:66; Act_4:28, Act_4:30; Act_13:11). It was proof of God’s approval of their course in preaching the Lord Jesus to Greeks.
Turned unto the Lord (epestrepsen epi ton kurion). First aorist active indicative of epistrephō, common verb to turn. The usual expression for Gentiles turning to the true God (Act_14:15; Act_15:3, Act_15:19; Act_26:18, Act_26:20; 1Th_1:9). Here “Lord” refers to “the Lord Jesus” as in Act_11:20, though “the hand of the Lord” is the hand of Jehovah, clearly showing that the early disciples put Jesus on a par with Jehovah. His deity was not a late development read back into the early history.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Act 11:21
a great number believed — Thus the accession of Cornelius and his party was not the first admission of uncircumcised Gentiles into the Church. (See on Act_10:1.) Nay, we read of no influence which the accession of Cornelius and his house had on the further progress of the Gospel among the Gentiles; whereas there here open upon us operations upon the Gentiles from quite a different quarter, and attended with ever growing success. The only great object served by the case of Cornelius was the formal recognition of the principles which that case afterwards secured. (See on Act_15:19-29.)
A.T. Robertson Act 11:22
Came to the ears (ēkousthē eis ta ōta). First aorist passive indicative of akouō, was heard in the ears.
Of the church which was in Jerusalem (tēs ekklēsias tēs en Ierousalēm). Not yet was the term “church” applied to the group of disciples in Antioch as it is in Act_11:26; Act_13:1.
They sent forth (exapesteilan). First aorist active indicative of the double compound verb eẋapȯstellō, to send out and away. The choice of Barnabas was eminently wise. He already had a position of leadership in Jerusalem because of his generosity (Act_4:36.) and his championship of Saul after his conversion (Act_9:27). He was originally from Cyprus and probably had personal friends among some of the leaders in this new movement. He was to investigate the work of the travelling preachers (Act_11:19) all the way to Antioch (heōs Antiocheias).
Adam Clarke Act 11:22
The Church which was in Jerusalem – This was the original, the mother Church of Christianity; not the Church of Rome; there were Christian Churches founded in many places, which exist to the present day, before Rome heard the Gospel of the kingdom. A Christian Church means a company of believers in Christ Jesus, united for the purposes of Christian fellowship, and edification in righteousness.
They sent forth Barnabas – It seems, then, that the Church collectively had power to commission and send forth any of its own members, whom it saw God had qualified for a particular work. There must have been, even at that time, an acknowledged superiority of some members of the Church beyond others. The apostles held the first rank; the deacons (probably the same as those called prophets, as being next chosen) the second; and perhaps those called evangelists, simply preachers of the truth, the third rank. Those who knew most of God and sacred things, who were most zealous, most holy, and most useful, undoubtedly had the pre-eminence.
A.T. Robertson Act 11:23
The grace of God, was glad (tēn charin tēn tou theou echarē). Note repetition of the article, “the grace that of God.” The verb (second aorist passive indicative of chairō) has the same root as charis. See the same suavis paronomasia in Luk_1:28. “Grace brings gladness” (Page). “A smaller man would have raised difficulties as to circumcision or baptism” (Furneaux).
He exhorted (parekalei). Imperfect active, picturing the continuous encouragement from Barnabas.
With purpose of heart (tēi prothesei tēs kardias). Placing before (from prȯtithēmi), old word for set plan as in Act_27:13; Rom_8:28. The glow of the first enthusiasm might pass as often happens after a revival. Barnabas had a special gift (Act_4:36) for work like this.
Cleave unto the Lord (prosōmenein ̣eň tōi kuriōi). Dative case (locative if en is genuine) of kurios (here Jesus again) after prosemenein to keep on remaining loyal to (present active infinitive). Persistence was needed in such a pagan city.
Adam Clarke Act 11:23
Had seen the grace of God – That is, had seen the effects produced by the grace of God. By the grace of God, we are to understand:
1. His favor.
2. The manifestations of that favor in the communication of spiritual blessings. And,
3. Principles of light, life, holiness, etc., producing effects demonstrative of the causes from which they sprung.
Barnabas saw that these people were objects of the Divine approbation; that they were abundantly blessed and edified together as a Christian Church; and that they had received especial influences from God, by his indwelling Spirit, which were to them incentives to faith, hope, and love, and also principles of conduct.
Was glad – Not envious because God had blessed the labors of others of his Master’s servants, but rejoiced to find that the work of salvation was carried on by such instruments as God chose, and condescended to use. They who cannot rejoice in the conversion of sinners, because they have not been the means of it, or because such converts or their ministers have not precisely the same views of certain doctrines which they have themselves, show that they have little, if any thing, of the mind that was in Christ, in them.
With purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord – These converts had begun well; they must continue and persevere: God gave them the grace, the principle of life and action; it was their business to use this. If they did not, the gift would be resumed. Barnabas well knew that they must have the grace of God in them to enable them to do any good; but he knew, also, that its being in them did not necessarily imply that it must continue there. God had taught him that if they were not workers together with that grace they would receive it in vain; i.e., the end for which it was given would not be answered. He therefore exhorted them, τῃ προθεσει της καρδιας, with determination of heart, with set, fixed purpose and resolution, that they would cleave unto the Lord, προσμενειν τῳ Κυριῳ, to remain with the Lord; to continue in union and fellowship with him; to be faithful in keeping his truth, and obedient in the practice of it. To be a Christian is to be united to Christ, to be of one spirit with him: to continue to be a Christian is to continue in that union. It is absurd to talk of being children of God, and of absolute, final perseverance, when the soul has lost its spiritual union. There is no perseverance but in cleaving to the Lord: he who in his works denies him does not cleave to him. Such a one is not of God; if he ever had the salvation of God, he has lost it; he is fallen from grace; nor is there a word in the book of God, fairly and honestly understood, that says such a person shall absolutely and unavoidably arise from his fall.
A.T. Robertson Act 11:24
For (hoti). Because. This is the explanation of the conduct of Barnabas. The facts were opposed to the natural prejudices of a Jew like Barnabas, but he rose above such racial narrowness. He was a really good man (agathos). See note on Rom_5:7 for distinction between agathos and dikaios, righteous, where agathos ranks higher than dikaios. ( As between dikaios, righteous, and agathos, good, Lightfoot notes “all the difference in the world” which he shows by quotations from Plato and Christian writers, a difference of sympathy mainly, the dikaios man being “absolutely without sympathy” while the agathos man “is beneficent and kind.”)
Besides, Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit (like Peter) and of faith and so willing to follow the leading of God’s Spirit and take some risks. This is a noble tribute paid by Luke. One wonders if Barnabas was still living when he wrote this. Certainly he was not prejudiced against Barnabas though he will follow the fortunes of Paul after the separation (Act_15:36; 41).
Was added unto the Lord (prosetethē tōi kuriōi). First aorist passive indicative of prostithēmi, common verb to add to. These people were added to the Lord Jesus before they were added to the church. If that were always true, what a difference it would make in our churches.
John Gill (From Rom. 5:7)
By “a good man”, is not meant a man made so by the grace of God, and who is indeed truly and properly the only good man; but a liberal and beneficent man, who was very bountiful in his charitable distributions to the poor, and very liberal in contributing towards the charge of sacrifices, repairs of the temple, &c. and did more this way than what the law obliged to. Now for such a man perhaps there might be some found so daring and hardy, as to venture and lay down their lives, when there was any danger of his, or any necessity for so doing; so great an interest such men had in the affections of the people. And so the Jews (z) distinguish between צדיק, “a righteous man”, and חסיד, “a good man”. They say (a),
“there is a righteous man that is good, and there is a righteous man that is not good; but he that is good for heaven, and the creatures, i.e. for God and men, this is צדיק טוב, “a righteous good man”; but he that is good to God, and evil to men, this is צדיק שאינו טוב, “a righteous man that is not good”.”
The whole body of the people of the Jews were divided into three sorts: take a short sentence out of their Talmud (b), not to support the justness of the characters, but for the sake of this threefold division of the people:
“three things are said concerning the paring of the nails, צדיק, “a righteous man” buries them, חסיד, “a good man” burns them, רשע, “a wicked man” casts them away.”
Now to this division of the people the apostle alludes; and there is in the words a beautiful gradation, scarcely for one of the צדיקים, “righteous men”, who does just what he is obliged to do by the law, and no more, will any die; perhaps it may be, that for one of חסידים, “the good men”, who are very liberal to the poor, and towards defraying all the expenses of the temple service, in which they exceed the strict demands of the law, some may be found willing to die; but who will die for the רשעים, “the wicked and ungodly”, the profligate and abandoned part of the people? not one, but Christ died for the ungodly: wherefore if instances could be produced of men’s dying either for righteous men, or good men, these would not come up to the instance of Christ’s dying for men, who were neither righteous nor good.
(z) Maimon in Misn Pirke Abot, c. 5. sect. 10, 13. Bartenora in Misn. Bava Metzia, c. 4. sect. 6. Juchasin, fol. 12. 2. Kimchi in Psal. iv. 3. (a) T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 40. 1. (b) T. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 18. 1. & Niddah, fol. 17. 1.
Albert Barnes Act 11:24
For he was a good man – This is given as a reason why he was so eminently successful. It is not said that he was a man of distinguished talents or learning; that he was a splendid or an imposing preacher; but simply that he was a man of an amiable, kind, and benevolent disposition – a pious, humble man of God. We should not undervalue talent, eloquence, or learning in the ministry, but we may remark that humble piety will often do more in the conversion of souls than the most splendid talents. No endowments can be a substitute for this. The real power of a minister is concentrated in this, and without this his ministry will be barrenness and a curse. There is nothing on the earth so mighty as goodness. If a man wished to make the most of his powers, the true secret would be found in employing them for a good object, and suffering them to be wholly under the direction of benevolence. John Howard’s purpose “to do good” has made a more permanent impression on the interests of the world than the talents of Alexander or Caesar.
Full of the Holy Ghost – Was entirely under the influence of the Holy Spirit. This is the second qualification mentioned here of a good minister. He was not merely exemplary for mildness and kindness of temper, but he was eminently a man of God. He was filled with the influences of the sacred Spirit, producing zeal, love, peace, joy, etc. See Gal_5:22-23. Compare the notes on Act_2:4.
And of faith – Confidence in the truth and promises of God. This is the third qualification mentioned; and this was another cause of his success. He confided in God. He depended, not on his own strength, but on the strength of the arm of God. With these qualifications he engaged in his work, and he was successful. These qualifications should be sought by the ministry of the gospel. Others should not indeed be neglected, but a man’s ministry will usually be successful only as he seeks to possess those endowments which distinguished Barnabas – a kind, tender, benevolent heart; devoted piety; the fulness of the Spirit’s influence; and strong, unwavering confidence in the promises and power of God.
And much people – Many people.
Was added unto the Lord – Became Christians.
A.T. Robertson Act 11:25
To seek for Saul (anazētēsai Saulon). First aorist (effective) active infinitive of purpose. Anazēteō is a common verb since Plato, but in the N.T. only here and Luk_2:44, Luk_2:45, to seek up and down (ana), back and forth, to hunt up, to make a thorough search till success comes. It is plain from Gal_1:21 that Saul had not been idle in Cilicia. Tarsus was not very far from Antioch. Barnabas probably knew that Saul was a vessel of choice (Act_9:15) by Christ for the work among the Gentiles. He knew, of course, of Saul’s work with the Hellenists in Jerusalem (Act_9:29) and echoes of his work in Cilicia and Syria had probably come to him. So to Tarsus he goes when he saw the need for help. “He had none of the littleness which cannot bear the presence of a possible rival” (Furneaux). Barnabas knew his own limitations and knew where the man of destiny for this crisis was, the man who already had the seal of God upon him. The hour and the man met when Barnabas brought Saul to Antioch. The door was open and the man was ready, far more ready than when Jesus called him on the road to Damascus. The years in Cilicia and Syria were not wasted for they had not been idle. If we only knew the facts, it is probable that Saul also had been preaching to Hellenes as well as to Hellenists. Jesus had definitely called him to work among the Gentiles (Act_9:15). In his own way he had come to the same place that Peter reached in Caesarea and that Barnabas now holds in Antioch. God always has a man prepared for a great emergency in the kingdom. The call of Barnabas was simply the repetition of the call of Christ. So Saul came.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Act 11:25
Act_11:25, Act_11:26. Barnabas, finding the work in Antioch too much for him, goes to Tarsus for Saul – They labor there together for a whole year with much success, and Antioch becomes the honored birthplace of the term Christian.
Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus for to seek Saul — Of course, this was after the hasty dispatch of Saul to Tarsus, no doubt by Barnabas himself among others, to escape the fury of the Jews at Jerusalem. And as Barnabas was the first to take the converted persecutor by the hand and procure his recognition as a disciple by the brethren at Jerusalem (Act_9:27), so he alone seems at that early period to have discerned in him those peculiar endowments by virtue of which he was afterwards to eclipse all others. Accordingly, instead of returning to Jerusalem, to which, no doubt, he sent accounts of his proceedings from time to time, finding that the mine in Antioch was rich in promise and required an additional and powerful hand to work, he leaves it for a time, takes a journey to Tarsus, “finds Saul” (seemingly implying – not that he lay hid [Bengel], but that he was engaged at the time in some preaching circuit – see on Act_15:23), and returns with him to Antioch. Nor were his hopes disappointed. As co-pastors, for the time being, of the Church there, they so labored that the Gospel, even in that great and many-sided community, achieved for itself a name which will live and be gloried in as long as this world lasts, as the symbol of all that is most precious to the fallen family of man: – “The disciples were called CHRISTIANS first in Antioch.” This name originated not within, but without, the Church; not with their Jewish enemies, by whom they were styled “Nazarenes” (Act_24:5), but with the heathen in Antioch, and (as the form of the word shows) with the Romans, not the Greeks there [Olshausen]. It was not at first used in a good sense (as Act_26:28; 1Pe_4:16 show), though hardly framed out of contempt (as De Wette, Baumgarten, etc.); but as it was a noble testimony to the light in which the Church regarded Christ – honoring Him as their only Lord and Savior, dwelling continually on His name, and glorying in it – so it was felt to be too apposite and beautiful to be allowed to die.
A.T. Robertson Act 11:26
Even for a whole year (kai eniauton holon). Accusative of extent of time, probably the year a.d. 44, the year preceding the visit to Jerusalem (Act_11:30), the year of the famine. The preceding years with Tarsus as headquarters covered a.d. 37 (39) to 44.
They were gathered together with the church (sunachthēnai en tēi ekklēsiāi). First aorist passive infinitive of sunagō, old verb, probably here to meet together as in Mat_28:12. In Act_14:27 the verb is used of gathering together the church, but here en tēi ekklēsiāi excludes that idea. Barnabas met together “in the church” (note first use of the word for the disciples at Antioch). This peculiar phrase accents the leadership and co-operation of Barnabas and Saul in teaching (didaxai, first aorist active infinitive) much people. Both infinitives are in the nominative case, the subject of egeneto (it came to pass).
And that the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch (chrēmatisai te prōtōs en Antiocheiāi tous mathētas Christianous). This first active infinitive chrēmatisai is also a subject of egeneto and is added as a separate item by the use of te rather than kai. For the word itself in the sense of divine command, see note on Mat_2:12, note on Mat_2:22; note on Luk_2:26; and note on Act_10:22. Here and in Rom_7:3 it means to be called or named (assuming a name from one’s business, chrēma, from chraomai, to use or to do business). Polybius uses it in this sense as here. Tous mathētas (the disciples) is in the accusative of general reference with the infinitive. Christianous (Christians) is simply predicate accusative. This word is made after the pattern of Herodianus (Mat_22:16, Herōidianoi, followers of Herod), Caesarianus, a follower of Caesar (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, p. 377, gives papyri examples of the genitive Kaisaros meaning also “belonging to Caesar” like the common adjective Caesarianus). It is made thus like a Latin adjective, though it is a Greek word, and it refers to the Hebrew belief in a Messiah (Page). The name was evidently given to the followers of Christ by the Gentiles to distinguish them from the Jews since they were Greeks, not Grecian Jews. The Jews would not call them Christians because of their own use of Christos the Messiah. The Jews termed them Galileans or Nazarenes. The followers of Christ called themselves disciples (learners), believers, brethren, saints, those of the Way. The three uses of Christian in the N.T. are from the heathen standpoint (here), Act_26:28 (a term of contempt in the mouth of Agrippa), and 1Pe_4:16 (persecution from the Roman government). It is a clear distinction from both Jews and Gentiles and it is not strange that it came into use first here in Antioch when the large Greek church gave occasion for it. Later Ignatius was bishop in Antioch and was given to the lions in Rome, and John Chrysostom preached here his wonderful sermons.
John Gill Act 11:26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch,…. That he might be useful in directing, and assisting in settling this new and numerous church; in the establishing the members of it, and in putting them into Gospel order, and in a method to secure and maintain peace, especially as they might consist both of Jews and Gentiles; and none so proper to be concerned in such a work as the apostle of the Gentiles.
And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church; preaching the Gospel, and administering the ordinances to them, during that time, at proper seasons. For here being a number of converts, they were embodied together in a church state, very probably by the direction and assistance of Barnabas, who was sent to them from the church at Jerusalem, and in which he might be assisted by Saul: the first bishop, or pastor of this church, was Evodius, as Ignatius observes unto them (k); Remember Evodius, your worthy and blessed pastor, who was first ordained over you by the apostles; and Ignatius himself was the next, of whom Origen speaking, says (l), that he was the second bishop of Antioch after Peter, who in persecution fought with beasts at Rome; next to him was Heron, after him Cornelius, then, Eros; to whom succeeded Theophilus, who wrote three books to Autolycus, in vindication of the Christian religion, which are now extant, in the times of the emperor Aurelius Verus, about the year of Christ 171. He was succeeded by Maximinus (m) about the year 179, under Marcus Antoninus; and after him was Serapion, about the tenth year of the emperor Commodus, and of Christ 192; and about the year 214, Asclepiades succeeded in his room; next to him was Philetus, in the year 220, and then Zebennus in the year 231; next succeeded Babylas, the famous martyr, who suffered under Decius, and then followed Demetrianus, or Demetrius, about the year 255; and after him was the famous heretic Samosatenus, who was excommunicated from this church for his blasphemy against the Son of God; and Domnus, the son of Demetriauus, was put into his room, about the year 270; after him was Timaeus, in the year 274; and then Cyrillus, about the year 283: and these were the bishops or pastors of this church in the three first centuries (n).
And taught much people; besides the church, and with success, as to enlighten, convince, convert, comfort, and establish:
and the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch; before they were called among themselves, the disciples, brethren, believers, the church, &c. and by others the Nazarenes, and Galilaeans: whether this name of Christians, which comes from Christ, and signifies anointed ones, was given by their enemies, or their friends, by others, or themselves, is not certain, though it is most likely the latter; and it may be they hit upon this general appellation, upon the union of the Jews and Gentiles in one Gospel church state, and so happily buried the distinction of Jews and Gentiles, or those of the circumcision that believed, and those of the uncircumcision. Luke is particular in relating the affairs of this church, he being himself a native of this place. John of Antioch (o) gives an account of this matter in these words;
“at the beginning of the reign of Claudius Caesar, ten years after Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, was ascended up into heaven, Evodus, the first after the Apostle Peter, being chosen bishop of Antioch, the great city of Syria, became a patriarch, and under him they were called Christians: for this same bishop, Evodus, conferring with them, put this name upon them, whereas before the Christians were called Nazarenes and Galilaeans.”
Epiphanius says (p), the disciples were called Jessaeans before they took the name of Christians first at Antioch: they were called Jessaeans, says he, I think, because of Jesse, seeing David was of Jesse, and Mary of David: and so the Scripture was fulfilled, in which the Lord says to David, of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne, &c.–Or else, they were called Jessaeans from the name of Jesus our Lord; and refers the reader to a book of Philo’s, written by him, concerning the Jessaeans, whom Epiphanitius takes to be Christians; but those that Philo (q) treats of were not Jessaeans, but Essaeans, and seem to be the same with the Essenes, who were not Christians, but a sect of the Jews. Nor do we ever find that the Christians were called by this name.
(k) Epist ad Antiochenos, p. 86. (l) Homil. 6. in Luc. fol. 96. 1. (m) Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l. 4. c. 20, 24. (n) Ib. l. 5. c 22. & 1. 6. c. 39, 44, 46. & l. 7. c. 14, 27, 32. (o) Apud Gregory’s Notes, &c. p. 155. (p) Contra Haeres. l. 1. Haeres. 29. (q) Quod omnis probus liber, p. 876. De vita contemplativa, p. 889.
A.T. Robertson Act 11:27
Prophets (prophētai). Christian prophets these were (cf. Act_13:1) who came from Jerusalem (the headquarters, Act_8:15). Judas and Silas are called prophets (Act_14:4; Act_15:32). They were not just fore-tellers, but forth-tellers. The prophet had inspiration and was superior to the speaker with tongues (1Co_14:3). John was a prophet (Luk_7:26). We need prophets in the ministry today.
Adam Clarke Act 11:27
Came prophets from Jerusalem – Though the term prophet is used in the New Testament simply to signify a teacher, (see the note on Gen_20:7, where the subject is largely explained), yet here it evidently means also such as are under Divine inspiration, and foretold future events. This was certainly the case with Agabus, Act_11:28, though, perhaps, his ordinary character was that of a teacher or preacher. It seems from various scriptures, Rom_12:4, etc., 1 Corinthians 13:2-14:40, that the prophets of the New Testament were
1. Teachers or preachers in general.
2. Persons who, on special occasions, were under the influence of the Divine Spirit, and then foretold certain future events.
3. Persons who recited hymns to the honor of God in the public assemblies of the Christians.
4. Persons who prayed in those assemblies, having sometimes the gift of tongues, at other times not.
From Eph_2:20; Eph_3:5, we learn that the prophets of the Christian Church were inferior to the apostles; but, from Eph_4:11, we see that they were superior to all other teachers, even to evangelists and pastors.
John Gill Act 11:28 And there stood up one of them named Agabus,…. The same name with Hagaba in Neh_7:48 and with Hagabah, or Hagab in Ezr_2:45 and which the Septuagint there call Agaba and Agab. The name signifies a “grasshopper”, Lev_11:22 or “a locust”, 2Ch_7:13. In a book that goes under the name of Jerom (r), it is interpreted, “a messenger of tribulation”; respecting, it may be, not the true signification of the word, as the things which Agabus predicted, as the general dearth here, and the binding of the Apostle Paul, Act_21:10. And the same writer observes, that this interpretation is a violent, or a forced one. Some take it to be the same with עגב, “Agab”, which signifies “to love”; and so may be the same with the Greek name “Agapetus”, which may be interpreted “beloved”. This Agabus is said to be one of the seventy disciples that Christ sent forth: he seems to have been an itinerant prophet, who went from place to place delivering out his prophecies; we hear of him again at Caesarea, in Act_21:10. Some say he was a native of Antioch; but this does not follow from his being here, any more than that he was a native of Caesarea from his being there also; it seems most likely that he was a native of Judea, and perhaps of Jerusalem, since in both places he is said to come from thence: it is reported that he died at Antioch; and he is placed in the Roman martyrology on the third of February.
Adam Clarke Act 11:28
Agabus – This prophet, of whom we know nothing, is once more mentioned, Act_21:10. He was probably a Jew, but whether converted now to Christianity we cannot tell.
Great dearth throughout all the world – The words εφ’ ὁλην την οικουμενην probably here mean the land of Judea; though sometimes by this phrase the whole Roman empire is intended. In the former sense the disciples appear to have understood it, as the next verse informs us; for they determined to send relief to their brethren in Judea, which they could not have done had the famine been general. It does not appear that they expected it to extend even to Antioch in Syria, where they then were, else they would have thought of making provision for themselves.
It is well known from history that there were several famines in the reign of Claudius. Dion Cassius, lib. lx., mentions a severe famine in the first and second year of the reign of Claudius, which was sorely felt in Rome itself. This famine, it is supposed, induced Claudius to build a port at Ostia, for the more regular supply of Rome with provisions.
A second famine happened about the fourth year of this reign, which continued for several years, and greatly afflicted the land of Judea. Several authors notice this, but particularly Josephus, Ant. lib. xx. cap. 5, sect. 2, where, having mentioned Tiberius Alexander as succeeding to the procuratorship in the place of Cuspius Fadus, he says that, “during the government of these procurators, a great famine afflicted Judea.” Επι τουτοις δη και τον μεγαν λιμον κατα την Ιουδαιαν συνεβη γενεσθαι.
A third famine is mentioned by Eusebius, in An. Abrahami, which commences with the calends of October, a.d. 48, which was so powerful “in Greece that a modius (about half a bushel of grain) was sold for six drachms,” about three shillings and sixpence English. Vid. Euseb. in Chron. edit. Scalig. The same author mentions another famine in Rome, in the tenth year of Claudius, of which Orosius gives the details, lib. vii.
A fourth famine, which took place in the eleventh year of Claudius, is mentioned by Tacitus, Annal. lib. xii. sect. 43, in which there was so great a dearth of provisions, and famine in consequence, that it was esteemed a Divine judgment. Frugrum quoque egestas, et orta ex ea fames, in prodigium accipiebatur. At this time, the same author tells us, that in all the stores of Rome there were no more than fifteen days’ provision; and, had not the winter been uncommonly mild, the utmost distress and misery must have prevailed.
It may now be inquired, to which of these famines in the reign of Claudius does the prophecy of Agabus refer? Most learned men are of opinion that the famine of which Agabus prophesied was that mentioned above, which took place in the fourth year of this emperor. a.d. 47. This famine is particularly mentioned by Josephus, Ant. lib xx. cap. 2, sect. 5, who describes it as “a very great famine, in which many died for want of food.” – “That Helena, queen of Adiabene, who had embraced the Jewish religion, sent some of her servants to Alexandria, to buy a great quantity of corn; and others of them to Cyprus, to buy a cargo of dried figs, which she distributed to those who were in want.” And in cap. 5, sect. 2, he says that this happened” when Tiberius Alexander succeeded Cuspids Fadus; and that under these procurators the famine happened in which Queen Helena, at a vast expense, procured relief to the Jews.” Dr. Hudson’s note on this passage in Josephus deserves to be copied: “This,” says he, “is that famine foretold by Agabus, Act_11:28, which happened when Claudius was consul the fourth time, (a.d. 47), and not that which happened when Claudius was consul the second time, and Caecina was his colleague, (a.d. 42), as Scaliger says, upon Eusebius, p. 174. Now when Josephus had said, a little after, cap. 5, sect. 2, that Tiberius Alexander succeeded Cuspius Fadus as procurator, he immediately subjoins, under these procurators there happened a great famine in Judea.” From this it is evident that this famine must have continued several years, as it existed under both these procurators. Fadus, says Mr. Whiston, was not sent into Judea till after the death of Agrippa, i.e. towards the end of the fourth year of Claudius, in the end of a.d. 44, or beginning of 45. So that this famine, foretold by Agabus, happened on the fifth, sixth, and seventh years of Claudius, a.d. 45, 46, and 47. See Whiston’s Josephus; and see Krebs’ Observat. in Nov. Test. on this place.
Albert Barnes Act 11:29
Then the disciples – The Christians at Antioch.
According to his ability – According as they had prospered. It does not imply that they were rich, but that they rendered such aid as they could afford.
Determined to send relief – This arose not merely from their general sense of obligation to aid the poor, but they felt themselves particularly bound to assist their Jewish brethren. The obligation to relieve the temporal needs of those from whom important spiritual mercies are received is repeatedly enforced in the New Testament. Compare Rom_15:25-27; 1Co_16:1-2; 2Co_9:1-2; Gal_2:10.
John Calvin Act 11:29
29. But here ariseth a question, seeing that the misery was common to all, why ought they rather to have succored one people than all the rest? I answer, that forasmuch as Judea was impoverished with great destructions of wars and other miseries, the men of Antioch were not without cause more moved with the miseries of the brethren which were there; secondly, the greater the rage of the enemies was, the more wretched was the estate of the brethren. Finally, Paul doth sufficiently declare, in the Epistle to the Galatians, that Judea had certain especial necessities, whereof all other had regard, not without cause, (Gal_3:0) And this thankfulness deserved no small commendations, in that the men of Antioch thought that they ought to help the needy brethren, from whom they had received the gospel. For there is nothing more just than that those should reap earthly things who have sown spiritual things. As every man is too much bent to provide for himself, every man might readily have excepted and objected: Why shall not I rather provide for myself? But when they call to mind how greatly they are indebted to the brethren, omitting that carefulness, they turn themselves to help them. In sum, this alms had a double end; for the men of Antioch did the duty of charity toward their needy brethren and they did also testify by this sign, what great account they made of the gospel, whilst that they honored the place whence it came.
As every man was able. We see the men of Antioch observe in this place that mean which Paul prescribeth to the Corinthians, (2Co_8:6,) whether they did this of themselves, or being instructed by him; and it is not to be doubted, but that he continued like to himself in both places. Therefore we must follow this rule, that every one, considering how much is granted him, impart the same courteously with his brethren, as one that must give an account; so shall it come to pass, that he which is but poor shall have a liberal mind, and that a small reward shall be counted a fat and gorgeous sacrifice. By this word determined, Luke giveth us to understand that their oblation was voluntary. Which thing ought so to be, as Paul teacheth, that we reach out our hand unto the needy not as constrained, but cheerfully, (2Co_9:7.) When as he nameth every one, it is all one as if he should say, that one did not prescribe another a law, neither did they burthen one another with their prejudice, but that every man did bestow his liberality as seemed good to himself; and we must note the word διακονιας, whereby we are taught that rich men have greater abundance given them upon that condition, that they may be the ministers of the poor in the dispensation committed to them by God. Lastly, Luke teacheth that the blessing was sent not to all the whole nation, but only to those that were of the household of faith, not because we ought never to use any bountifulness, or courtesy towards the unbelievers, seeing love ought to extend itself unto all mankind, but because those ought to be preferred whom God hath joined and linked to us move near, and with a more holy band.
A.T. Robertson Act 11:30
Sending (aposteilantes). First aorist active participle of apostellō, coincident action with epoiēsan (did).
To the elders (pros tous presbuterous). The first use of that term for the Christian preachers. In Act_20:17, Act_20:28 “elders” and “bishops” are used interchangeably as in Tit_1:5, Tit_1:7. The term probably arose gradually and holds a position in the church similar to the same term in the synagogue. The apostles were apparently absent from Jerusalem at this time and they were no longer concerned with serving tables. In Act_21:18 Paul presented the later collection also to the elders. Since Peter and James (till his death) were in Jerusalem during the persecution in chapter Act_12:1 it is probable that the visit of Barnabas and Saul to Jerusalem came really after that persecution for Peter left Jerusalem (Act_12:17). The elders here mentioned may include the preachers in Judea also outside of Jerusalem (Act_26:20).
Albert Barnes Act 11:30
Sent it to the elders – Greek: to the presbyters. This is the first mention which we have in the New Testament of elders, or presbyters, in the Christian church. The word literally denotes “aged men,” but in the Jewish synagogue it was merely a name of office. It is clear, however, I think, that the elders of the Jewish synagogue here are not included, for the relief Was intended for the “brethren” (Act_11:29); that is, the Christians who were at Jerusalem, and it is not probable that a charity like. this would have been entrusted to the hands of Jewish elders. The connection here does not enable us to determine anything about the sense in which the word was used. I think it probable that it does not refer to officers in the church, but that it means simply that the charity was entrusted to the aged, prudent, and experienced men in the church, for distribution among the members. Calvin supposes that the apostles were particularly intended. But this is not probable. It is possible that the deacons, who were probably aged men, may be here particularly referred to, but it seems more probable that the charity was sent to the aged members of the church without respect to their office, to be distributed according to their discretion.