Acts Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 18

1. After this, Sha’ul left Athens and went to Corinth,
2. where he met a Jewish man named Aquila, originally from Pontus but having recently come with his wife Priscilla from Italy, because Claudius had issued a decree expelling all the Jews from Rome. Sha’ul went to see them;
Claudius had issued a decree expelling all the Jews from Rome in 49 C.E. The expulsion is usually connected with the remark of Suetonius, "Since the Jews were continually making disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Claudius] expelled them from Rome" (Claudius 25:4); and it is presumed that the pagan Suetonius was speaking not of some otherwise unknown Chrestus but of Christos ("Christ," see Mt 1:1N) and misspelled the word. If so. Suetonius (75-160 C.E.) is one of the earliest writers outside the New Testament to mention Yeshua the Messiah, and his expression, "instigation of Christos," would refer to disputes between Messianic and non-Messianic Jews. However, the possibility remains that "Chrestus" was someone else altogether. See 28:24-25N. 

3. and because he had the same trade as they, making tents, he stayed on with them; and they worked together.
Sha'ul earned his own living (see also 1С 9:1-19), even though he taught that those who proclaim the Good News are entitled to be supported by their fellow believers (1С 9:14). In observing the Mishnaic admonition, "Do not make of the Torah... a spade with which to dig" (which means, don't use your knowledge of spiritual things as a means of getting rich), he went beyond the call of duty. 

4. Sha’ul also began carrying on discussions every Shabbat in the synagogue, where he tried to convince both Jews and Greeks.
5. But after Sila and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Sha’ul felt pressed by the urgency of the message and testified in depth to the Jews that Yeshua is the Messiah.
6. However when they set themselves against him and began hurling insults, he shook out his clothes and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! For my part, I am clean; from now on, I will go to the Goyim!”
Your blood be on your own heads (compare Mt 27:25&N). For my part, I am clean. At Ezekiel 18:16-19 God tells the prophet that he will be blameworthy if he fails to warn the wicked person to leave his wicked ways, but if he does warn him he will be guiltless. Sha'ul is, in effect, applying the passage to himself and saying, "I have done what I could to bring you the message of salvation; you choose to reject it at your peril, but I have discharged my responsibility. I would not leave you and go to the Goyim (I3:46&N) if you were responsive, but you leave me no other choice. The Gospel is for you especially, but it will also save them" (Ro 1:16). 

7. So he left them and went into the home of a “God-fearer” named Titius Justus, whose house was right next door to the synagogue.
Whose house was right next door to the synagogue. Definitely a confrontational tactic. Sha'ul had no intention of being intimidated or dropping out of sight. He still intended his and the Gospel's presence to be very visible in the Jewish community. Believers today should consider following his example and making the saving message of Yeshua clearly evident to Jewish people. The wisdom of Sha'ul's policy is shown in the following verse and in the reassurance of vv. 9-10. 

8. Crispus, the president of the synagogue, came to trust in the Lord, along with his whole household; also many of the Corinthians who heard trusted and were immersed.
Crispus, the president of the synagogue, or: "the synagogue-ruler," meaning one of several (see v. I7N). Sha'ul himself immersed Crispus (1С 1:14). 

9. One night, in a vision, the Lord said to Sha’ul, “Don’t be afraid, but speak right up, and don’t stop,
10. because I am with you. No one will succeed in harming you, for I have many people in this city.”
11. So Sha’ul stayed there for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.
12. But when Gallio became the Roman governor of Achaia, the unbelieving Jews made a concerted attack on Sha’ul and took him to court,
Gallio was proconsul of Achaia between 51 and 53 C.E., according to an inscription from Delphi; this is an important factual landmark in determining the chronology of Sha'ul's travels (see Ga 1:17-2:2&NN.).
Unbelieving Jews here and at v. 28. See 9:22-23N. 

13. saying, “This man is trying to persuade people to worship God in ways that violate the Torah.”
Against the Torah, or: "against the [Roman] law." It seems that Jewish complainants would mean the former; moreover, Gallio takes it this way and acts accordingly (v. 15). But it is possible that the latter is meant, as at 16:21-22, 17:7. 

14. Sha’ul was just about to open his mouth, when Gallio said to the Jews, “Listen, you Jews, if this were a case of inflicted injury or a serious crime, I could reasonably be expected to hear you out patiently.
15. But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law, then you must deal with it yourselves. I flatly refuse to judge such matters.”
16. And he had them ejected from the court.
17. They all grabbed Sosthenes, the president of the synagogue, and gave him a beating in full view of the bench; but Gallio showed no concern whatever.
Sosthenes, the president of the synagogue (Greek archisunagogos, "synagogue ruler," also at v. 8,13:15; Mk 5:22, 35-38; Lk 8:49, 13:14). Probably the new president, after Crispus, the former president, became a Messianic Jew (v. 8&N). But it is not impossible that Crispus and Sosthenes were both "synagogue rulers," two among several, and that Crispus continued to hold office even after becoming Messianic. This Sosthenes may be the same as the one at 1С 1:1 — which would mean that he later became Messianic himself, perhaps in consequence of this incident.

They all grabbed him and gave him a beating. Either the other Jews did this to Sosthenes because he had led them into public humiliation; or the Greeks, observing that Gallio the governor was not interfering, "proceeded to indulge their anti-Jewish feelings" (I. Howard Marshall, Acts, ad loc). 

18. Sha’ul remained for some time, then said good-bye to the brothers and sailed off to Syria, after having his hair cut short in Cenchrea, because he had taken a vow; with him were Priscilla and Aquila.
Sha'ul remained for some time. Except where his own life was in immediate peril Sha'ul never left at a lime of crisis or under duress. Having his hair cut short in Cenchrea because he had taken a vow, and with him were Priscilla and Aquila. Pnscilla is mentioned first; she may have been the more notable of the couple. Some suggest, and the Greek text allows, that it was Aquila and not Sha'ul who took the vow; but since the overall narrative is about Sha'ul, this is unlikely.

Yeshua rules out oaths for Messianic believers (Mt 5:33-37) but not vows, although the distinction beiween them is not a clear one (see Mt 5:33N). The Greek word for "vow" occurs only here and at 21:23. What kind of vow did Sha'ul take, and what did cutting his hair have to do with it? Nothing is said of what he vowed to do, but Numbers 6:1-21 describes the Nazirite vow, which involves allowing the hair to grow during the days of the vow; and Mishna tractate Nazir spells out the details of such vows, including their minimum length, thirty days. Strictly speaking, however, this cannot have been a Nazirite vow; for if it had been, Sha'ul would not have been shaved in Cenchrea but would have waited till he arrived in Yerushalayim (v. 22) to shave his head and offer the obligatory sacrifice at the Temple (compare 2I:23-24&NN). Furthermore, if we assume that the patterns described in the Mishna, compiled around 220 C.E., were already being followed in Sha'ul's time, he would have had to spend at least thirty days in Israel to validate his vow (Nazir 3:6, 7:3), since a Nazirite vow undertaken in a "land of the Gentiles" is invalid. Perhaps this was a Diaspora adaptation of the Nazirite vow.

No matter what the details of Sha'ul's vow were, this verse proves that he did not abandon the Torah; on the contrary, even when he became as a Gentile among Gentiles he continued to observe Jewish practices. See 13:9N, 1С 9:20-22&NN. 

19. They came to Ephesus, and he left them there; but he himself went into the synagogue and held dialogue with the Jews.
20. When they asked him to stay with them longer, he declined;
21. however, in his farewell he said, “God willing, I will come back to you.” Then he set sail from Ephesus.
Some manuscripts add at the beginning of Sha'ul's farewell, "I must by all means keep this coming feast in Yerushalayim." If the words are genuine, they surely refer to one of the pilgrim festivals (Yn 5: IN), perhaps Shavu 'ot (as at 20:16), and would account for Sha'ul's wanting to go there at this time, since no other reason is given. However, the prevailing view among scholars is that the sentence was added later. The similar statement at 20:16 is genuine (see note there). 

22. After landing at Caesarea, he went up to Yerushalayim and greeted the Messianic community. Then he came down to Antioch,
23. spent some time there, and afterwards set out and passed systematically through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the talmidim.
Went up... came down. See Mt 20:18N. Sha'ul's second journey (see l3:4N)ends with his return to Antioch, where he naturally spent some time in his home congregation (13:1-4&N. I4:26-28&NN, 15:40&N). His third journey, described in 18:23-21:16, commenced with his passing systematically through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the talmidim he had won to the Lord — this was part of his calling as an emissary and congregation-planter. His second journey began the same way (15:41), and compare Ro 1:10-12. 

24. Meanwhile, a Jewish man named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent speaker with a thorough knowledge of the Tanakh.
Alexandria was the chief center of Diaspora Hellenistic Judaism. The great Jewish intellectual, Philo, lived there and possibly was still alive at the time of these events. Jews occupied two of the five districts of the city, named for its founder, Alexander the Great, who established it on the Mediterranean Sea near the mouth of the Nile River in 331 B.C.E. Its great library, destroyed in 699 C.E., made it a major center of learning. It developed its own variety of Judaism which made accommodations to Greek culture — it was a kind of "Reform Judaism" in its day. Alexandria even had its own Temple. The Septuagint was translated there around 200 B.C.E. 

25. This man had been informed about the Way of the Lord, and with great spiritual fervor he spoke and taught accurately the facts about Yeshua, but he knew only the immersion of Yochanan.
He knew only the immersion of Yochanan(Ml 3:1-12), so that even though he accurately taught the facts about Yeshua, he had not experienced the full significance of Yeshua's life, death and resurrection and had not been filled with the Ruach HaKodesh (see 19:1-7&NN).

Likewise today there are those whose knowledge of the things of God is good as far as it goes, and who even can present the facts about Yeshua accurately; but they have not experienced his salvation and his Holy Spirit for themselves. If they are as open to truth as Apollos, it should be enough for their salvation to have the way of God explained in fuller detail, emphasizing the person and work of Yeshua the Messiah, since they already know who God is. I suspect that many well-informed Jews belong to this category. 

26. He began to speak out boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the Way of God in fuller detail.
27. When he made plans to cross over into Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote the talmidim there to welcome him. On arrival, he greatly helped those who through grace had come to trust;
28. for he powerfully and conclusively refuted the unbelieving Jews in public, demonstrating by the Tanakh that Yeshua is the Messiah.
Apollos was useful in Achaia because he made use of the Tanakh and focussed his efforts on showing that the promised Messiah is indeed Yeshua, rather than dealing with secondary issues that satisfy curiosity but do not lead people to salvation. 

next chapter...