Acts xvi.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 3. Circumcised him. Not to obstruct the conversion of the Jews; and because it was still lawful to observe the Jewish ceremonies, though the obligation of keeping the old law had ceased. (Witham) — This St. Paul did in order to gain the Jews, and make Timothy acceptable to them. (Tirinus) — To the Jew, says he, (1 Corinthians ix. 20.) I became a Jew, that I might gain the Jews. If he refused to circumcise Titus, in order to vindicate the Christian’s independence of the Mosaic ceremonies; he now submits to the observance of them, to shew there is nothing of itself bad in them, and that they might without crime be practised, till time by degrees had abolished them. (St. Augustine, ep. lxxxii. ad S. Hieronymum)

Ver. 4. Here, as well as in the last verse of the former chapter, we see St. Paul ordering the new converts, wherever he went, to receive, as their rule of conduct, the ordinances of the apostles and priests assembled in Jerusalem.

Ver. 6. They were forbidden by the Holy Ghost, to go, and preach at that time in the Lesser Asia [Asia Minor], perhaps because their preaching in Macedonia was more necessary; or because St. John was to be sent into Asia [Asia Minor]. (Witham) — Forbidden. Why? Because they were not yet prepared to receive the gospel; or, perhaps, these provinces were reserved for St. John, as Bithynia was for St. Luke. (Menochius) — St. Leo compares this question to many others respecting the inscrutable judgments of God. Why did not the Son of God come into the world many ages before? Why did he suffer so many to die in ignorance? Why are there yet so many in infidelity? Why, in one family, does one believe and is converted, while another remains in darkness, and crime? Who shall account for the exercise he pleases to make of his rigour, or his mercy, when all were justly victims of the former? (St. Leo, de vocat. Gentium. lib. ii. chap. 2)

Ver. 7. The spirit of Jesus permitted them not. It is the same spirit, which just before was called the Holy Ghost: for the Holy Ghost is the spirit of Jesus, as proceeding from the Son as well as from the Father. (Witham)

Ver. 9. A vision, &c. The tutelar angel of the province, according to most interpreters, under the form of a Macedonian, who implored St. Paul in behalf of the province he guarded.

Ver. 10. We. This change in the narration from the third, to the first person, we sought, &c. is remarkable. It is hence inferred, that St. Luke, the author of this book, joined St. Paul at Troas, and became his inseparable companion. (Calmet) — It is, however, probable, that as the narrative in the first person changes again at the end of this chapter, and is not resumed, till the fifth verse of the 20th chapter, that St. Luke was absent on some mission during the time that elapsed between this and their sailing from Philippi, as mentioned hereafter. (Chap. xx. ver. 6) (Tirinus)

Ver. 13. There was prayer.[1] The Greek word signifies either prayer itself, or an oratory, or place to pray in. (Witham) — Not every prayer is here understood, but that which was joined in the celebration of the sacred mysteries. (Estius, in different location.) See 1 Corinthians vii. and Acts vi.

Ver. 16. A pythonical spirit. A spirit pretending to divination, to tell secrets, and things to come. See 2 Kings xxviii; Isaias viii. 19. (Witham) — A divining spirit, which pretended to foretell things to come. It is strictly forbidden every where throughout the old law to have any dealings with persons of this description. (Deuteronomy xviii. 10; Leviticus xx. 27; &c.) Hence it would appear that these superstitions were of early practice among mankind. It is lamentable that the present age is still credulous enough to believe in such impostures. The ignorance of mankind, it appears, has always been made a source of emolument to the designing. (Haydock)

Ver. 17. These men are the servants of the most high God. Evil spirits in possessed people, are sometimes forced to tell the truth. (Witham)

Ver. 18. Observe here that the servants of God have a power granted them of controlling wicked spirits, according to the promise of our Lord, Luke ix. and x. Hence the seventy disciples, returning, said: Lord, even the devils are subject to us in thy name. (Estius, in different location)

Ver. 20. Jews. This was the name the first Christians went by among the pagans. Indeed our Saviour’s being born of that nation, and his disciples adoring the same God, and following the same morality and Scriptures as the Jews, were sufficient reasons to make them confounded. When Suetonius relates that Claudius banished the Jews from Rome, he means the Christians. (Calmet)

Ver. 21. There was a standing decree of the senate, which forbade the introduction of any new divinity, without the formal consent of the senate. (Bible de Vence)

Ver. 24. Made their feet fast in the stocks. By the Latin and Greek text, they made them fast with wood. (Witham)

Ver. 26. All the doors were opened. This made the jailer conclude the prisoners had made their escape. And he being answerable for them, and expecting to be put to death, was for stabbing himself. (Witham)

Ver. 33. Was baptized, being first told what he was to believe, and do. (Witham) — Hence Catholics draw a very plausible argument for the baptism of infants, as it is very probable there were some infants in the family. See Estius, in different location.

Ver. 35. Sent the serjeants,[2] vergers, or such like officers. (Witham)

Ver. 37. Romans. St. Paul inherited his right of citizenship from his father; it does not appear how Silas obtained it, perhaps by purchase. There is no proof that Silas was a freeman of Rome. (Denis the Carthusian) — It was forbidden by the Porcian and Sempronian laws, for a Roman citizen to be scourged, unless he was likewise convicted of a capital crime. Cicero pro Rabirio. Facinus est vinciri civem Romanum: scelus verberari. Id. cont. Verrem. The Romans were always very jealous of the dignity of their city. We cannot but admire St. Paul’s astonishing desire of suffering for the name of Jesus, in concealing a circumstance, the very naming of which would have saved him the cruel scourging he suffered. If he now refuses to go out of the prison privately, it is to vindicate his honour, and to avert the scandal, which the new converts would naturally feel, in seeing their master treated as a criminal. He exemplified in this instance St. Augustine’s principal; “Our lives are necessary for ourselves, but our reputation for others.” (Haydock) — Estius declares, that Silas was also a Roman citizen, and that from this circumstance he probably received a Roman name, as Paul did. For in other parts of Scripture we find him styled Silvanus. (2 Corinthians i. 19.) and at the commencement of both the epistles to the Thessalonians. — Not so; but let them come, &c. St. Paul patiently submitted himself to be whipped in a most disgraceful and cruel manner, which he could easily have prevented or put a stop to, by saying, I am a Roman citizen. Afterwards, when they were for setting him at liberty, he claims his privilege, he puts all the magistrates in a fright; they run to ask him pardon, and entreat him with all civility to leave the town, which he does not think fit to do, till he visited his brethren and friends. (Witham)


[1] Ver. 13. Oratio, proseuche, preces, oratio & Oratorium.

[2] Ver. 35. Lictores, rabduchous, vergers, rod-bearers.

Bible Text & Cross-references:

Paul visits the churches. He is called to preach in Macedonia. He is scourged at Philippi.

1 And *he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold there was a certain disciple there named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who believed, his father being a Gentile.

2 To this man the brethren, who were in Lystra and Iconium, gave a good testimony.

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

4 And as they passed through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, that were decreed by the apostles and ancients, who were at Jerusalem.

5 And the churches indeed were confirmed in faith, and increased in number daily.

6 Now having passed through Phrygia, and the country of Galatia, they were forbidden, by the Holy Ghost, to preach the word of God in Asia.

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

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

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

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

11 So sailing from Troas, we came with a direct course to Samothracia, and the day following to Neapolis:

12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were in this city some days, conferring together.

13 And upon the sabbath-day, we went forth without the gate by a river side, where it seemed that there was prayer: and sitting down, we spoke to the women that were assembled.

14 And a certain woman, named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, one that worshipped God, heard us, whose heart the Lord opened to attend to the things which were spoken by Paul.

15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying: If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and remain. And she constrained us.

16 And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain girl, possessed with a pythonical spirit, met us, who brought her masters much gain by divining.

17 This same, following Paul and us, cried out, saying: These men are the servants of the most high God, who announce to you the way of salvation.

18 And this she did many days. But Paul being grieved, turned, and said to the spirit: I command thee, in the name of Jesus Christ, to go out of her. And he went out the same hour.

19 But her masters seeing that the hope of their gain was gone, apprehending Paul and Silas, they brought them into the market-place to the rulers;

20 And presenting them to the magistrates, said: These men disturb our city, being Jews:

21 And preach a fashion which it is not lawful for us to receive, nor observe, being Romans.

22 And the people ran together against them: and *the magistrates tearing off their clothes, commanded them to be beaten with rods.

23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them securely.

24 Who having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

25 And at midnight, Paul and Silas praying, praised God: and they who were in prison heard them.

26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened: and the bands of all were loosed.

27 And the keeper of the prison being awakened, and seeing the doors of the prison open, drawing his sword, would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had fled.

28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying: Do thyself no harm, for we are all here.

29 Then calling for a light, he went in, and trembling, fell down at the feet of Paul and Silas:

30 And bringing them out, he said: Masters, what must I do, that I may be saved?

31 But they said: Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him, and to all that were in his house.

33 And he taking them the same hour of the night, washed their wounds: and himself was baptized, and all his family forthwith.

34 And when he had brought them into his own house, he laid the table for them, and rejoiced with all his family, believing God.

35 And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying: Let those men go.

36 And the keeper of the prison told these words to Paul: The magistrates have sent to have you discharged: now therefore depart, and go in peace.

37 But Paul said to them: After having beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men that are Romans, they cast us into prison: and now do they thrust us out privately? Not so: but let them come,

38 And discharge us themselves. And the serjeants told these words to the magistrates. And they were afraid, hearing that they were Romans:

39 And coming, they intreated them: and bringing them out, they desired them to depart out of the city.

40 And going out of the prison, they entered into the house of Lydia: and having seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.



1: about the year A.D. 51.

22: 2 Corinthians xi. 25.; Philippians i. 13.; 1 Thessalonians ii. 2.