Acts Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 13
1. In the Antioch congregation were prophets and teachers — Bar-Nabba, Shim‘on (known as “the Black”), Lucius (from Cyrene), Menachem (who had been brought up with Herod the governor) and Sha’ul.
Menachem (who had been brought up with Herod the governor). Josephus may have been referring to him when he wrote,

"There was one of these Essenes whose name was Menachem, of whom it was said that not only did he conduct his life excellently, but God had given him the ability to predict the future. This man once saw Herod when he was a child, going to school, and saluted him as king of the Jews. But Herod, either thinking that Menachem did not know him or that he was joking, reminded him that he was only a private person. Menachem smiled to himself, slapped him on the backside with his hand and said, 'However that may be, you will be king. You will begin your reign happily, because God finds you worthy of it. But remember the blows Menachem gave you; they are a sign that your fortune will change. Now it will be most reasonable for you to love justice towards men, piety towards God, and clemency towards your subjects. But I also know what your overall conduct will be, that you won't behave this way. You will outdo everyone in happiness and obtain an everlasting reputation, but you will forget piety and righteousness. And these crimes will not be hidden from God at the end of your life; you will find out then that he will remember them and punish you foTihem.'"(Antiquities of the Jews 15:10:5)
Compare 12:22-23&N. 

2. One time when they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Ruach HaKodesh said to them, “Set aside for me Bar-Nabba and Sha’ul for the work to which I have called them.”
3. After fasting and praying, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
4. So these two, after they had been sent out by the Ruach HaKodesh, went down to Seleucia and from there sailed to Cyprus.
Acts 13:4-14:26 describes the first of four trips by Sha'ul. The others are recounted at 15:40-18:22,18:23-21:15 and 27:1-28:16.

The passage demonstrates the central importance for believers of congregations in mediating God's will to individuals: likewise 14:26-28&NN, 15:40&N. 

5. After landing in Salamis, they began proclaiming the word of God in the synagogues, with Yochanan (Mark) as an assistant;
They began proclaiming the word of God in the synagogues (literally, " the assemblies (Greek sunagogais) of the Jews"; the English word "synagogues" already implies "of the Jews"); see also Ya 2:2&N.

Although Sha'ul was called to be Yeshua's emissary to the Gentiles (9:15,22:21; Ro 15:13; Ga 1:16, 2:7-9; Ep 3:8), he invariably made it his practice throughout his life to bring the Good News of Yeshua the Messiah to the Jews first, wherever there were any (here; 13:14; 14:1; 16:13; 17:1-2, 10, 17; 18:4; 19:8; 28:17 — ten instances). This accords both with his teaching (Ro 1:16&N) and his heart's longing thai Israel should be saved (Ro 9:1-5,10:1,11:26). With both argument and practice he thus refutes Two-Covenant theology, which asserts that Jews can be saved without trusting in Yeshua (Yn 14:6N). Unfortunately, few Gentile Christians have seen fit to obey Sha'ul's exhortation to be imitators of him (1С 11:1) in this area. Instead, if they evangelize at all, they usually reach out to everyone but the Jews, who are often the last to have the Gospel properly explained to them, so that they are left to rely on hearsay and half-truths, or, worse, are presented with error and evil in the name of the Gospel.
Yochanan (Mark). The name Mark is not in the text but is known from 12:25. 

6. and thus they made their way throughout the whole island. They ended up in Paphos, where they found a Jewish sorcerer and pseudo-prophet named Bar-Yeshua.
7. He had attached himself to the governor, Sergius Paulus, who was an intelligent man. Now the governor had called for Bar-Nabba and Sha’ul and was anxious to hear the message about God;
8. but the sorcerer Elymas (for that is how his name is translated) opposed them, doing his best to turn the governor away from the faith.
No one is quite sure what is the connection between the names Bar-Yeshua ("son of Yeshua"), Elymas (possibly related to Hebrew chalom, "dream," or 'alim, "wise"), and the fact that he was a sorcerer. 

9. Then Sha’ul, also known as Paul, filled with the Ruach HaKodesh, stared straight at him and said,
Sha'ul, also known as Paul. In this verse we are given Sha'ul s Roman name, and from this point on (except at 22:7,13 and 26:14, where he recounts the incident that led him to faith) the New Testament always speaks of him as Paul (Greek Pavlos), undoubtedly because his ministry was primarily among Gentiles. The name "Paul" appears 132 times in Acts 13-28, 30 times in his 13 letters and once at 2 Ke 3:15. However, except in the present verse, the JNT uses "Sha'ul" for all of them, to highlight the Jewishness of the New Testament and its major figures. I choose by this means to remind the reader that Sha'ul/Paul remained a Jew all his life, indeed, an observant Jew (16:3, 17:2, 18:18, 20:16, 21:23-27, 25:8. 28:17; and see 2I:21N), even a Pharisee (23:6, Pp 3:5), while nevertheless sparing no effort to bring to Gentiles the Gospel of Yeshua the Messiah.

Some object to my decision on the ground that at this point, they claim, Sha'ul gave up his old Jewish name and took on a new Christian name, which he kept for the rest of his life in order to identify himself henceforth as no longer a Jew but a Christian. But, as explained above, he did no such thing. Rather, Sha'ul, like "Yochanan surnamed Mark" (12:12, 25), like "Hadassah, that is, Esther" (Esther 2:7), and like many Jews today in the Diaspora, had two names all his life — a Hebrew name and a name in the local language. Lutheran commentator R. C. H. Lenski is correct in writing {ad loc), 'The child had both names from infancy." But it does not necessarily follow that the names were used as suggested in his next sentence, "When his father called him he shouted, 'Saul, Saul!' but when the Greek boys with whom he played called him they shouted, 'Paul, Paul!"'

I see no theological or spiritual significance in the New Testament's calling Sha'ul "Paul" from this verse onward. There is only the practical value, at the time the New Testament was written, of calling the emissary to the Gentiles by the name he used with them. For the JNT, with its very different audience and purpose, this value is, in my opinion, outweighed by the value of reinforcing the reader's perception of Sha'ul's Jewishness. See Section V of the Introduction to the JNT on "Translation Issues." Also see Lk 23:33N and Ac I2:4N for two instances where the KJV, with far less reason or logic, renders a Greek name by an English name completely unrelated to it. 

10. “You son of Satan, full of fraud and evil! You enemy of everything good! Won’t you ever stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? (Proverbs 10:9)
11. So now, look! The hand of the Lord is upon you; and for a while you will be blind, unable to see the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over Elymas; and he groped about, trying to find someone to lead him by the hand.
12. Then, on seeing what had happened, the governor trusted, astounded by the teaching about the Lord.
13. Having set sail from Paphos, Sha’ul and his companions arrived at Perga in Pamphylia. There Yochanan left them and returned to Yerushalayim,
Yochanan left them. See 15.39N. 

14. but the others went on from Perga to Pisidian Antioch, and on Shabbat they went into the synagogue and sat down.
15. After the reading from the Torah and from the Prophets, the synagogue leaders sent them a message, “Brothers, if any of you has a word of exhortation for the people, speak!"
After the reading from the Torah and from the Prophets. Then as now, on Shabbut there was added to the liturgy a reading from the Torah (the Pentateuch) and a haftarah ("conclusion"), which consisted of a reading from the N'vi'im (Prophets) or K'tuvim (Writings). Following this would be a drashah (literally, "investigation," that is, a teaching or sermon), depending on who was available to teach or preach. Hospitality often dictated offering this honor to a visitor, if he was competent. Compare Lk 4:16-17&N. 

16. So Sha’ul stood, motioned with his hand, and said: “Men of Isra’el and God-fearers, listen!
God-fearers. See 10:2N. Besides Sha'ul's conviction that it was right to present the Gospel first to Jews (v. 5N), he also knew that it was in the synagogues where he would find the Gentiles most likely to be responsive, since "proselytes of the gate" were already interested in the one true God. One aspect of communicating the Gospel consists in determining which people are likely to respond favorably to it. Sha'ul wasted little time trying to convince those who closed themselves off but invested much time in reaching persons open to it. In this regard the Jewish community is no different from Gentile communities: there is a full spectrum of receptiveness, from persons implacably opposed to those whose hearts are waiting and aching for God's Good News. 

17. The God of this people Isra’el chose our fathers. He made the people great during the time when they were living as aliens in Egypt and with a stretched-out arm he led them out of that land' (Exodus 6:6; 12:51).
The God of this people Israel chose our fathers. While it is possible that some Jews, like some Christians, become proud of being "chosen," I think many find it embarrassing and wish, like Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof," that God "would choose somebody else, lor a change." But only if I take chosenness to imply superiority do I become either embarrassed or proud. The right attitude, the one taken by Sha'ul and by the writers of the Tanakh, is that Israel's election by God is not predicated on any special quality in Israel but entirely on God's "grace." rightly defined as "undeserved favor." Being aware that his favor is undeserved should make us humble without embarrassing us (see 20:18-19N on "humility").

"Adonai did not set his love upon you or choose you because you were more numerous than any people, for you were the fewest of all peoples; but rather because Adonai loved you, and because he wanted to keep the oath he had sworn to your fathers." (Deuteronomy 7:7-8) So long as God's act of choosing Israel is seen as a means whereby God glorified himself by creating opportunities to express his love, it causes neither conceit nor discomfiture. When our attention is diverted from God to ourselves, then enter the sins of pride and embarrassment (a kind of pride in reverse). Sha'ul proceeds to state some of the ways in which God has expressed his love.

With a stretched-out arm. A phrase the Tanakh uses repeatedly to describe God's judgment on those who rebel against him and against his people Israel (Exodus 6:6: Deuteronomy 4:34,5:15,7:19,9:29,11:2; 1 Kings 8:42; 2 Kings 17:36; Jeremiah 32:21; Ezekiel 20:33-34; Psalm 136:11-12; 2 Chronicles 6:32). 

18. For some forty years (Exodus 16:35; Numbers 14:34) he took care of them in the desert,
Took care of them, or: "bore with them" — two different Greek words are found in the various manuscripts, reflecting two possible ways of understanding the Hebrew word "nasa" found in Deuteronomy 1:31, to which this verse alludes (see I. Howard Marshall's commentary, ad loc.). 

19. and after he had destroyed seven nations (Deuteronomy 7:1) in the land of Kena‘an he gave their land to his people as an inheritance.
20. All this took about 450 years. After that, he gave them judges (Judges 2:16), down to the prophet Sh’mu’el.
450 years, starting from birth of Yitz’chak, including Egypt - 400 years, 40 in the Wilderness and 10 until Joshua divided up the Land. 

21. Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Sha’ul Ben-Kish, a man from the tribe of Binyamin. After forty years,
22. God removed him and raised up David as king for them, making his approval known with these words, "I found David Ben-Yishai to be a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want.’ (Psalm 89:21(20); 1 Samuel 13:14)
After forty years God removed him. The Tanakh does not state how long King Saul reigned. Josephus says 40 years in one place but 20 years in another (Antiquities of the Jews 6:14:9,10:8:4), perhaps reflecting 1 Samuel 7:2. Another theory: the years of Samuel (v. 20) and Saul are brought together into one sum. 

23. “In keeping with his promise, God has brought to Isra’el from this man’s descendants a deliverer, Yeshua.
In keeping with his promise to raise up from this man's (King David's) descendants a deliverer. See 2 Samuel 7:12-13, 16; Isaiah 11:1 in the context of Isaiah 7-12; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Zechariah 3:8; Ezekiel 37:24 (in the context of Ezekiel 36-37); Amos 9:11-12; Psalms 89:4-5(3-4), 36-37(35-36), 132:11; Lk 1:32-33; Ro 1:4. The fifteenth blessing of the Amidah prayer takes this promise as given:

"Speedily cause the Branch [i.e.. Offspring, Son] of David your servant to flourish. Exalt his horn [or: his ray; i.e., increase his glory] by your salvation, because we hope for your salvation all the day. Praised be you, Adonai, who causes the horn of salvation to flourish."

See Lk 2:11N on "deliverer" (Greek sdter, "savior," equivalent to Hebrew moshia', which is related to "yeshu 'ah" ("salvation") used three times in the above prayer, and to the name Yeshua, Mt 1:21N). 

24. Now before the coming of Yeshua, Yochanan proclaimed to all the people of Isra’el an immersion in connection with turning to God from sin.
Yochanan the Immerser. See Mt 3:1-17, 11:2-19, 14:1-12; Mk 1:2-11; Lk 3:1-22; Yn 1:6-8, 19-34; Ac 19:1-7; and notes to these passages. 

25. But as Yochanan was ending his work, he said, ‘Who do you suppose I am? Well — I’m not! But after me is coming someone, the sandals of whose feet I am unworthy to untie.’
26. “Brothers! — sons of Avraham and those among you who are ‘God-fearers’! It is to us that the message of this deliverance has been sent!
27. For the people living in Yerushalayim and their leaders did not recognize who Yeshua was or understand the message of the Prophets read every Shabbat, so they fulfilled that message by condemning him.
28. They could not find any legitimate ground for a death sentence; nevertheless they asked Pilate to have him executed;
29. and when they had carried out all the things written about him, he was taken down from the stake (Deuteronomy 21:23) and placed in a tomb.
See 2.-22-23N, Mt 26:24N, Lk 24:25-27N. 

30. “But God raised him from the dead!
31. He appeared for many days to those who had come up with him from the Galil to Yerushalayim; and they are now his witnesses to the people.
32. “As for us, we are bringing you the Good News that what God promised to the fathers,
33. he has fulfilled for us the children in raising up Yeshua, as indeed it is written in the second Psalm, 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father' (Psalm 2:7).
34. And as for his raising him up from the dead, to return to decay no more, he said, 'I will give the holy and trustworthy things of David to you' (Isaiah 55:3).
Raising up Yeshua from death is explicitly meant in v. 34, but in v. 33 what is meant is raising up Yeshua to prominence. This took place at his immersion by Yochanan, when the voice from Heaven also quoted Psalm 2:7, "You are my Son" (Lk 3:22), and Yeshua began his public ministry as Savior of the world.

From the words, 'Today I have become your Father," some of the early Messianic Jews, known as Adoptionists, developed the view that Yeshua was not God's son in any special way different from the rest of us until the day of his immersion, at which time he "became" the Son of God, so to speak, "by adoption." Adoptionism does not conflict with Yn 1:1, 14, which says that the eternal Word of God became flesh, because the Word could be eternal without having eternally been the Son. But it does conflict with Ro 1:3-4 and Co 1:15 (see notes there), from which one concludes that Yeshua's Sonship is eternal and not datable within history. On the Messianic significance of the title, "Son of God," see Mt 4:3N.
The holy and trustworthy things of David. See Mt 1:1N on "Son of David." 

35. This is explained elsewhere: 'You will not let your Holy One see decay'.
Sha'ul's argument is the same as Kefa's at 2:25-36; see note there. 

36. For David did indeed serve God’s purposes in his own generation; but after that, he died, was buried with his fathers and did see decay
37. However, the one God raised up did not see decay.
38. “Therefore, brothers, let it be known to you that through this man is proclaimed forgiveness of sins!
39. That is, God clears everyone who puts his trust in this man, even in regard to all the things concerning which you could not be cleared by the Torah of Moshe.
Let it be known to you... is proclaimed to you... everyone who puts his trust.
Sha'ul is polite and not coercive in his presentation of the Good News. He makes knowledge available and directs it to the individual but leaves him tree to act or not act on the information. This remains the essence of ethical evangelism. See Lk 14:23&N, 2C4:1-2&N.

Through this man, Yeshua, forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Yeshua has authority to forgive sins, even though no one can forgive sins but God (Mk 2:5-12&N). Conclusion: Yeshua is divine. "Through him," that is, with him as the only available mediator (4:12, Yn 14:6, ITi 2:5&N).

That is,... Verse 39 clarifies why forgiveness of sins is important even for people who have the Torah. It summarizes Romans 7-8 and Messianic Jews 7-10 in a single sentence. The Torah provides a means of temporary atonement through repentance plus the Temple sacrifices (see the books of Romans and Messianic Jews), but it does not provide the permanent atonement or the power for right living which the individual needs. Yeshua and the Holy Spirit do this, and they are necessary for anyone who wishes to keep the Torah properly (Ro 4:25,6:7, 10:4).

The things concerning which you could not be cleared by the Torah of Moshe. According to the Mishna, "There are thirty-six transgressions for which the Torah specifies the punishment of karet" that is, being "cut off' from Israel (K'ritot 1:1). For these the Torah provides no "clearing": no sacrifice or punishment named in the Torah provides atonement or restores fellowship. These transgressions include the prohibited sexual unions of Leviticus 18, blasphemy (Numbers 15:30), idolatry, necromancy (Leviticus 20:6), profaning Shabbat (Exodus 31:14), certain violations of ritual purity laws, eating chametz during Pesach and eating or working on Yom-Kippur.

The transgression must be committed "wantonly" to be subject to karet; if committed by mistake or in ignorance, a sin offering may be brought. In fact, according to the plain sense of Numbers 15:30, the key element in any unpardonable sin is acting "with a high hand"; and the New Testament is equally clear that the New Covenant provides no remedy for those who intentionally sin (see Ro 3:7-8,6:1-2; MJ 6:4-6; and especially Ya 2:10-1 IN). Karet means excision from the Jewish people (Leviticus 18:29 and the verses cited above); the Talmud explains it more specifically as premature death (Mo'ed Katan 28a). Regardless of its exact meaning, karet is regarded as a punishment administered directly by God; no human court determines it. But according to the Talmud,

"Rabbi Akiva says that if those subject to the punishment of karet repent, the Heavenly beit-din [court] grants them remission." (Makkot 13b)

However, this is not specified in the Written Torah; and I speculate that Rabbi Akiva, who lived in the second century C.E., was developing defensive theology (3:22-23N) against Sha'ul's teachings. 

40. “Watch out, then, so that this word found in the Prophets may not happen to you:
41. 'You mockers! Look, and marvel, and die! For in your own time, I am doing a work that you simply will not believe, even if someone explains it to you!'" (Habakkuk 1:5)
42. As they left, the people invited Sha’ul and Bar-Nabba to tell them more about these matters the following Shabbat.
43. When the synagogue meeting broke up, many of the born Jews and devout proselytes followed Sha’ul and Bar-Nabba, who spoke with them and urged them to keep holding fast to the love and kindness of God.
44. The next Shabbat, nearly the whole city gathered together to hear the message about the Lord;
The initial effect of Sha'ul's sermon was to arouse interest, not opposition. He did not alienate his Jewish hearers by denouncing them as opposing God or following manmade religion, as some zealous but mistaken Christian evangelists do today; rather, he urged those who in the past had held fast to the love and kindness of God to continue doing so. Doing so, of course, then as well as now, implied accepting the Good News of Yeshua the Messiah. 

45. but when the Jews who had not believed saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and spoke up against what Sha’ul was saying and insulted him.
What upset the unbelieving Jews? The vast crowds of Gentiles, "nearly the whole city" (v. 44). The opposition was initially not to the content of the Gospel but to the fact that outsiders were attracted to it.

The phrase, "who had not believed," is absent from the Greek text; I have added it in order to clarify which Jews are meant, as explained in 9:22-23N. The addition is es-peciaJly justified here because v. 43 speaks of Jews who did believe Sha'ul's message. 

46. However, Sha’ul and Bar-Nabba answered boldly: “It was necessary that God’s word be spoken first to you. But since you are rejecting it and are judging yourselves unworthy of eternal life — why, we’re turning to the Goyim!
There is no point in arguing against blasphemous passion. This was the first of Sha'ul's several experiences, while traveling on his four journeys, of partial or total rejection by the synagogue and the first time he turned to Gentiles apart from the Jews. On the word "Goyim"see Mt5:47N.

Sha'ul's sermon in the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch illustrates how he went about presenting the Gospel to Jews. As with Stephen's speech (7:2-53), the appeal is through the history of God's dealings with the people of Israel. Yeshua is presented as the "Son of David"; a term everyone understood to mean the Messiah (see Mt 1:1N). 

47. For that is what Adonai has ordered us to do: 'I have set you as a light for the Goyim, to be for deliverance to the ends of the earth'" (Isaiah 49:6).
Isaiah 49:6, quoted here, is, essentially, the Great Commission (see Mt 28:19-20&N), as given to the Jewish people. The phrase "light for the Goyim" (also found at Isaiah 42:6) recalls Isaiah 60:1-3:

"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of Adonai has risen upon you.... And Goyim will walk in your light...." The "light" who "has come" is Yeshua, the "light of the world" (Yn 8:12&N, which gives other references). Only when the Jewish people shine forth this light can we be the light for the Goyim that we are supposed to be. 

48. The Gentiles were very happy to hear this. They honored the message about the Lord, and as many as had been appointed to eternal life came to trust.
49. And the message about the Lord was carried throughout the whole region.
50. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the women ‘God-fearers’ of high social standing and the leading men of the city, and they organized persecution against Sha’ul and Bar-Nabba and expelled them from their district.
51. However, Sha’ul and Bar-Nabba shook off the dust of their feet against them and went on to Iconium;
52. and the talmidim were filled with joy and with the Ruach HaKodesh.
That a minority co-opts influential members of the majority to accomplish its purpose is neither unusual nor the point. Rather, we observe that divisions fade away when unbelievers unite to persecute God's people (v. 50). Fortunately, persecution produces no lasting effects. The Gospel continues to spread (v. 51), and the believers are filled with joy and with the Ruach HaKodesh (v. 52). This is not surprising, since even the gates of Sh'ol cannot overcome the Messianic Community (Mt 16:18). History shows that persecution strengthens believers' resolve and increases their joy in the Holy Spirit. 

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