Acts xxi.Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Coos and Rhodes are islands in the Archipelago.

Ver. 3. Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean, to the east of Patara and Rhodes.

Ver. 4. Not go up to Jerusalem. St. Paul says in the foregoing chapter that he was pressed by the Holy Ghost to go to Jerusalem; and do these prophets now advise him to stay away, and disobey the inspiration? No: their dissuasion was not the effect of inspiration, but the expression of their tenderness and affection for him, which made them fear what they saw he was going to endure. (Denis the Carthusian) — Hence St. Paul disregarded their entreaties, as well as the imminent dangers that every where stared him in the face. See his heroic answer to the melting entreaties of the faithful of Cæsarea, and their final acquiescence: “the will of the Lord be done.” (below, ver. 14)

Ver. 8. Philip, the evangelist, so called from his preaching the gospel, though he was one of the seven, that is, of the seven deacons. (Witham)

Ver. 9. Prophecy. It is supposed that these daughters of St. Philip had made a vow of virginity, or at least remained in that state out of a motive of religion. St. Jerome thinks in reward of this they were gifted with a prophetic spirit. (Lib. i. chap. 24. cont. Jov.) — Others think that by prophesying is meant interpreting the Scriptures, or singing the praises of God. (Estius)

Ver. 18. To James, the bishop of Jerusalem, where all the seniors, that is, the bishops and priests, had assembled. (Witham)

Ver. 20. How many thousands. In the Greek, how many ten thousands. (Witham)

Ver. 21. To forsake Moses. In the Greek, to depart or apostatize from Moses and the law. This is more than was true. For St. Paul circumcised Timothy, (chap. xvi.) and did not absolutely hinder converts who had been Jews, from practising the Jewish ceremonies. (Witham) — There is a manifest falsity in this accusation against St. Paul. He had never commanded or advised the Jews, to whom he had preached, to renounce the law, abandon the ceremonies of Moses, or reject the ancient customs of the nation. He had never hindered any one from following in this respect the bias of his inclinations. He had indeed defended the liberty of the converts from these ceremonies; he had taught that Christ had taken away the necessity of this yoke; but he left them at liberty still to carry it if they pleased. (Calmet) — For these things were not then to be sought after as necessary, nor yet to be condemned as sacrilegious. The law of Moses at that time was dead, but not deadly. (St. Augustine, ep. lxxxii.) — These considerations will sufficiently explain the apostle’s motive for submitting on this occasion to one of their ceremonies. He became all to all, that he might gain all to Christ. (Haydock)

Ver. 23. Who have a vow upon them. On which account they will have sacrifices offered for them in the temple. (Witham)

Ver. 24. Bestow on them. It was thought a merit among the Jews to bear the expenses of any vow which another had made. They thus became partakers of it; in the same manner as at present those, who have not the courage to forsake the world by solemn vows, seek to have some share in the merits of those who do forsake it, by contributing part of their substance to their support. (Calmet)

Ver. 30. The doors were shut, lest the temple should be profaned by Gentiles entering into it. (Witham) — The temple was an asylum, but not for those men who were justly pursued. Hence the Jews looking upon Paul as a blasphemer, they did not think they violated this asylum by forcibly removing Paul from the temple; but lest he might return, they fastened the entrance-gates.

Ver. 33. Two chains, for his hands and feet; or perhaps one chain was put on each hand, which was likewise tied to a soldier on each side of him, who led him. This was the Roman custom of binding prisoners. See Seneca, ep. v. et lib. de tranquil. animi. x. See Acts xii. 6, 7.

Ver. 34. Into the castle.[1] Neither the Latin nor the Greek word signifies a castle, but rather a camp, or a place walled, or with a trench about it. It is true, we may here understand the tower, called Antonia; but within its court might be tents for soldiers, where there was so great a number: for we see that Lysias could send away 470 with St. Paul, besides those that might stay behind. (Witham)

Ver. 37. Canst thou speak Greek? We cannot doubt but St. Paul had in Greek spoke already to the tribune: upon which he said, dost thou speak Greek? and then asked him, if he were not that seditious Egyptian, who had headed so many murderers? (Witham)

Ver. 38. This Egyptian coming to Jerusalem, and professing himself to be a prophet, had persuaded the people to accompany him to Mount Olivet, pretending he would throw down the walls of the city only by a word. Felix, the Roman governor, attacked the deluded multitude, and killed 400. The leader escaped, and was heard of no more. This was in the 13th year of Claudius, about three years before St. Paul’s apprehension. (Menochius) — These rebels are called murderers, Sikarioi, Sicarii, from Sica, a small dagger, which they concealed under their cloak. Some of them were the retainers of Judas Galilæus; other Hessæans, who fought with the greatest animosity against the Romans, and suffered the most cruel death, sooner than to acknowledge Cæsar for lord and master. Some again suppose that the word sikarioi is only a corruption of the words, oi karioi,Scriptuarii, a name given to the Esseni. Consult Josephus, Jewish Antiquities xx. 7.

Ver. 39. I am indeed a Jew, by birth and education. (Witham)

Ver. 40. He spoke in the dialect of the country, which was partly Hebrew and partly Syriac, but the Syriac greatly prevailed; and from the steps, epi tous anastathmous, which led to the fortress of Antonia. Here a Roman cohort was lodged; it was situated to the north-west, and joined the temple. The flight of steps was occupied by the lowest orders of the people. Thus Cicero ad Atticum: Gradus templorum ab infimâ plebe completi erant; and again, pro Cluentio: gradus concitatis hominibus narrat.


[1] Ver. 34. In castra, which in the plural number, is not a castle: neither doth parembole, which is in the Greek, signify a castle.

Bible Text & Cross-references:

Paul goes up to Jerusalem. He is apprehended by the Jews in the temple.

1 And *when it came to pass that, being parted from them, we set sail, we came with a direct course to Coos, and the day following to Rhodes, and from thence to Patara.

2 And having found a ship sailing over to Phœnice, we went aboard, and set sail.

3 And when we had discovered Cyprus, leaving it on the left hand, we sailed into Syria, and came to Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden.

4 And finding disciples, we remained there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.

5 And the days being expired, departing, we went forward, they all bringing us on our way, with their wives and children, till we were out of the city: and kneeling down on the shore, we prayed.

6 And when we had take leave of one another, we took ship: and they returned home.

7 But we having finished the voyage by sea from Tyre, came down to Ptolemais: and saluting the brethren, we abode one day with them.

8 And the next day departing, we came to Cæsarea. And entering into the house of Philip, the evangelist, *who was one of the seven, we abode with him.

9 And he had four daughters, virgins, who did prophesy.

10 And as we remained there for some days, there came from Judea a certain prophet, named Agabus.

11 And when he was come to us, he took Paul’s girdle: and binding his own feet and hands, he said: Thus saith the Holy Ghost: The man whose girdle this is, the Jews shall so bind in Jerusalem, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.

12 And when we had heard this, both we, and they who were of that place, besought him not go up to Jerusalem.

13 Then Paul answered, and said: What do you mean, weeping and afflicting my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord Jesus.

14 And when we could not persuade him, we ceased, saying: The will of the Lord be done.

15 And after those days, being prepared, we went up to Jerusalem.

16 And there went also with us some of the disciples from Cæsarea, bringing with them one Mnason, a Cyprian, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge.

17 And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.

18 And the day following Paul went in with us to James, and all the ancients were assembled.

19 And when he had saluted them, he related particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles, by his ministry.

20 But they hearing it, glorified God, and said to him: Thou seest, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews who have believed: and they are all zealous for the law.

21 Now they have heard of thee, that thou teachest those Jews, who are among the Gentiles, to forsake Moses: saying, that they ought not to circumcise their children, nor to walk according to the custom.

22 What is it, therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.

23 Do, therefore, this that we say to thee: We have four men, who have a vow upon them.

24 Taking them, purify thyself with them: and pay for them, *that they may shave their heads: and all will know that the things which they have heard of thee, are false: but that thou thyself also walkest keeping the law.

25 As for those Gentiles who have believed, *we have written, decreeing that they should refrain themselves from that which has been offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication.

26 Then Paul taking the men, and the next day being purified with them, entered into the temple, giving notice of the accomplishment of the days of purification, until an oblation should be offered for every one of them.

27 But while the seven days were drawing to an end, those Jews who were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands upon him, crying out;

28 Men of Israel, help: This is the man that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and moreover hath brought in Gentiles into the temple, and hath violated this holy place.

29 For they had seen Trophimus, the Ephesian, in the city with him, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.

30 And the whole city was in an uproar: and there was a rush of people. And seizing Paul, they drew him out of the temple: and immediately the doors were shut.

31 And as they were seeking to kill him, it was told the tribune of the band; That all Jerusalem was in confusion.

32 Who forthwith taking with him soldiers and centurions, ran down to them. And when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they left off beating Paul.

33 Then the tribune coming near, took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains: and demanded who he was, and what he had done.

34 And some cried out one thing, some another, among the multitude. And when he could not know the certainty, because of the tumult, he commanded him to be brought into the castle.

35 And when he was come to the stairs, it happened that he was carried by the soldiers, because of the violence of the people.

36 For the multitude of the people followed after, crying out: Away with him.

37 And as Paul was about to be brought into the castle, he saith to the tribune: May I speak something to thee? Who said: Canst thou speak Greek?

38 Art not thou that Egyptian, who before these days didst raise a tumult, *and didst lead forth into the desert four thousand men that were murderers?

39 But Paul said to him: I am indeed a Jew, a man of Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city. And I beseech thee, permit me to speak to the people.

40 And when he had given him leave, Paul standing on the stairs, beckoned with his hand to the people. And a great silence being made, he spoke to them in the Hebrew tongue, saying:



1: about the year A.D. 58.

8: Acts vi. 5. and viii. 5.

24: Numbers vi. 18.; Acts xviii. 18.

25: Acts xv. 20. and 29.

38: about the year A.D. 55.