Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Melita, now called Malta, famous for being the residence of, and giving the title to, the military order of Knights, who strenuously resisted the Turks, when they threatened to overrun Christendom. The inhabitants are called Barbarians, not as a term of reproach, for the manner he speaks of their humanity testifies the contrary; but in the classical sense of the word, it was applied by the Greeks and Romans to all who did not speak either of those languages. Their hospitality was rewarded by the light of faith, which they still maintain, although infidels have sometimes for a century had dominion over this island. (Tirinus, &c.)
Ver. 4. Murderer. In this instance we see how unfounded are the judgments of men. As if the misfortune itself were not sufficient to endure, the man upon whom any temporal calamity falls, must be also judged to be an object of divine vengeance. How cruel and preposterous, yet how common are such proceedings! Whence can it happen that man is so forward to think evil, so slow to suspect good in his neighbour? (Haydock) — Not to live. The inhabitants of the island, called Barbarians, had a notion of a Deity, and also that murder was against the law of God and nature. (Witham)
Ver. 6. That he would suddenly fall down and die. It is not then by the natural situation and temper of the air, that this island has no venomous creatures. (Witham)
Ver. 16. To dwell by himself, with a soldier that guarded him. St. Paul was chained, as it appears by the 20th verse: and it was the custom to fasten one end of the chain by a lock to the prisoner’s wrist, and the other end of the chain to the wrist of the soldier who was to guard him. In most Greek copies we read: the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guards: as it is in the Protestant translation, and very probable; but these words are not found in divers Greek manuscripts nor were read by the ancient interpreter of the Latin Vulgate. (Witham) — St. Chrysostom attributes this liberty St. Paul enjoyed at Rome of going whither he liked, to their admiration of him. (Hom. liv. in Acts.) — Others to the moderation of Afranius Burrus, who was prefect of the Prætorium in the year 61, and who used his authority, as long as he possessed any over Nero’s mind, to repress that emperor’s bad inclinations, and direct his councils with wisdom. (Calmet)
Ver. 17. Chief of the Jews. We have seen before, that the emperor Claudius banished all Jews from Rome. It would appear from this verse, that many of the principal Jews returned at his death, which happened five years before St. Paul’s arrival. (Calmet)
Ver. 20. Because that for the hope of Israel. That is, of the Messias, so long expected and hoped for by the Israelites. (Witham) — According to the Roman custom, St. Paul must have been fastened by the right hand to one end of a chain, the other end of which chain held to the left hand of the soldier who guarded him. (Bible de Vence)
Ver. 22. It is every where gainsayed. Here we observe one of the characters of the true religion. It is contradicted and spoken against. As singular as this may appear, it is however true. Jesus, the author of that religion, had foretold it should be so. If the world hateth me, it will hate you also. The situation of the Catholic religion in this country [the United Kingdom], at present, is something similar to what is related here of Christianity: and those who have the candour to inquire seriously into its merits, have generally the reward of being convinced and of believing in it. Christianity, like some plants, grows the better for being trodden upon. (Haydock)
Ver. 30. Two whole years in his own hired lodging. That is, in the lodgings which St. Paul was permitted to hire for himself, and to live there, with a soldier chained to him for his guard. Happy soldier, if he knew how to make use of such a favourable opportunity! We may take notice by all this narration of St. Luke, (as when he says here, ver. 16, when we arrived at Rome, &c.) that he was all the way in the ship with St. Paul. (Witham)
Ver. 31. Here terminates the history of St. Paul, as contained in the Acts of the Apostles. The other actions of this great apostle, for want of being recorded, are involved in much obscurity. That he obtained his liberty again, and made many voyages to carry the light of the gospel into many countries, is certain: but nothing is known as to the manner or time. He finished his labours by martyrdom, being beheaded at Rome in the 66th of the Christian æra [the year A.D. 66], and the 13th of Nero. What a degree of virtue might we not attain, were we animated by the spirit and courage of a St. Paul. Let us at least try to imitate his example; and, if in dangers and difficulties we cannot clothe our souls in adamant, as he did, we may certainly avoid yielding ingloriously to every light impression. Let us at an humble distance tread in his footsteps and live so that we may navigate in safety the boisterous ocean of life, and by the grace of Jesus Christ arrive at the port, where danger is no more to be apprehended. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lv. in Act. ad finem.[at the end.])
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Paul, after three months’ stay in Malta, continues his voyage, and arrives at Rome. His conference there with the Jews.
1 And when we had escaped, then we knew that the island was called Melita. But the barbarians shewed us no small courtesy.
2 For kindling a fire, they refreshed us all, because of the rain which was falling, and of the cold.
3 And when Paul had gathered together a bundle of sticks, and had laid them on the fire, a viper coming out of the heat, fastened on his hand.
4 And when the barbarians saw the beast hanging on his hand, they said one to another: Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, who, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth him not to live.
5 And he indeed shaking off the beast into the fire, suffered no harm.
6 But they supposed that he would begin to swell up, and that he would suddenly fall down, and die. But after they had waited a long time, and seeing that no harm was done to him, changing their minds, they said he was a god.
7 Now in those places were possessions of the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us, and for three days entertained us courteously.
8 And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever, and of a bloody flux. To whom Paul entered in: and when he had prayed, and laid his hands on him, he healed him.
9 Which being done, all that had diseases in the island came, and were healed:
10 Who also honoured us with many honours, and when we were setting sail, they laded us with such things as were necessary.
11 *And after three months, we sailed in a ship of Alexandria, that had wintered in the island, whose sign was the Castors.
12 And when we were come to Syracusa, we remained there three days.
13 From thence coasting, we came to Rhegium: and after one day, the south wind blowing, we came the second day to Puteoli:
14 Where finding brethren, we were invited to stay with them seven days: and so we went for Rome.
15 And from thence, when the brethren had heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii-forum and the Three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he gave thanks to God, and took courage.
16 And when we were come to Rome, Paul was permitted to dwell by himself, with a soldier that guarded him.
17 And after the third day, he called together the chief of the Jews. And when they were assembled, he said to them: Men, brethren, I, having done nothing against the people, or the custom of our fathers, was delivered up a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans:
18 Who when they had examined me, would have let me go, for that there was no cause of death in me:
19 But the Jews opposing it, I was forced to appeal to Cæsar, not that I had any thing to accuse my nation of.
20 For this cause, therefore, I desired to see you, and to speak to you. Because that for the hope of Israel, I am bound with this chain.
21 But they said to him: We neither received letters concerning thee from Judea, neither did any of the brethren that came hither, relate or speak any evil of thee.
22 But we desire to hear from thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that it is every where gainsayed.
23 And when they had appointed him a day, there came very many to him to his lodgings; to whom he expounded, testifying the kingdom of God, and persuading them concerning Jesus, out of the law of Moses and the prophets, from morning till evening.
24 And some believed the things that were said: but some believed not.
25 And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, Paul saying this one word: Well did the Holy Ghost speak to our fathers by Isaias, the prophet,
26 *Saying: Go to this people, and say to them: With the ear you shall hear, and shall not understand: and seeing, you shall see, and shall not perceive.
27 For the heart of this people is grown gross, and with their ears have they heard heavily, and their eyes they have shut: lest perhaps they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
28 Be it known, therefore, to you, that this salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it.
29 And when he had said these words, the Jews went out from him, having much discussion among themselves.
30 And he remained two whole years* in his own hired lodging: and he received all that came in to him,
31 Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, without prohibition.
11: about the year A.D. 61.
26: Isaias vi. 9.; Matthew xiii. 14.; Mark iv. 12.; Luke viii. 10.; John xii. 40.; Romans xi. 8.
30: Until about the year A.D. 63.