Acts Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 20

1. After the furor died down, Sha’ul sent for the talmidim and encouraged them, then took his leave and set out on his way to Macedonia.
2. He went through that area, and, after saying much to encourage them, passed on to Greece,
3. where he spent three months. As he was preparing to set sail for Syria, he discovered a plot against him by the unbelieving Jews; so he changed his mind and decided to return by way of Macedonia.
A plot against him by the unbelieving Jews. "Unbelieving" is not in the Greek text; see 9:22-23N. We have read of a number of plots, some originated by Jews, some by Gentiles. We have seen in general that sometimes people receive the Gospel and sometimes they reject it (see Yn 7:43N). Their rejection can be either active or passive, the latter expressing itself as indifference, apathy or a feeling of superiority even while approving of the believers. The following table presents instances of each, showing the verses in the book of Acts and the locations of the Jewish and Gentile responses to the Gospel:




Believing the Gospel

2:41. Jerusalem

13:43. Pisidian Antioch

14:1. Iconium

17:4. Thessalonica

17:11-12. Berea

18:8. Corinth

19:9. Ephesus

28:24. Rome

14:1. Iconium

16:14, 30. Philippi

17:4. Thessalonica

17:11-12. Berea

17:34. Athens

18:8. Corinth

19:17-20. Ephesus

Rejecting the Gospel

(active opposition)



9:29, 12:3-4,

2 l:27ff. Jerusalem

9:23-24. Damascus

13:45, 13:50,14:19.

Pisidian Antioch

14: 2,5, 19. Iconium

17:5-8, 13. Thessalonica

18:6, 12-13. Corinth

19:9. Ephesus

20:3. Greece

12:1-4. Jerusalem

14:5, 19. Iconium

16:16ff. Philippi

19:23ff. Ephesus

Rejecting the Gospel

(passive opposition.

indifference, etc.)



28:24. Rome

17:32. Athens

26:24, 28. Caesarea


4. Sopater from Berea, the son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; as did Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia.
5. These men went on and waited for us in Troas,
6. while we sailed from Philippi after the Days of Matzah. Five days later, we met them in Troas, where we spent a week.
After the days of Matzah, that is, after Passover. See Mt 26:2N, 26:17N; 1С 5:6-8&N. Sha'ul. the observant Jew (13:9N), kept Pesach. 

7. On Motza’ei-Shabbat, when we were gathered to break bread, Sha’ul addressed them. Since he was going to leave the next day, he kept talking until midnight.
Motza'ei-Shabbat in Hebrew means "departure of the Sabbath" and refers to Saturday night. The Greek text here says, "the first day of the sabbaton," where Greek sabbaton transliterates Hebrew Shabbat and may be translated "Sabbath" or "week," depending on Ihe context. Since Shabbat itself is only one day, "the first day of the sabbaton " must be the first day of the week.

But what was meant by "the first day of the week"? Or, to make the question's relevance to Messianic Judaism clearer, were the believers meeting on Saturday night or on Sunday night? (It is clear from the verse that the meeting was in the evening.) A Saturday night meeting would fit more naturally with Jewish Shabbat observance, wherein the restful spirit of Shabbat is often preserved into Saturday evening, after the official end of Shabbat itself, which occurs after sunset when it gets dark enough to see three stars. It would be natural for Jewish believers who had rested on Shabbat with the rest of the Jewish community to assemble afterwards to celebrate their common faith in Yeshua the Messiah. The Gentile believers who came along later would join in the already established practice, especially since many of them would have been "God-fearers" (10:2N) already accustomed to following the lead of the Jews in whose company they had chosen to place themselves. And since by Jewish reckoning days commence after sunset, the sense of the Greek text seems best rendered by "Motza'ei-Shabbat." not "Sunday."

In various places this commentary notes the Christian Church's tendency to expunge Jewish influences, and I think an instance arises when the present verse is understood to refer to Sunday night. A Sunday night meeting would imply a break of one full day of work between the Jewish Shabbat and the gathering at which Sha'ul spoke. Although Sha'ul cautions Gentiles against being "Judaized" into legalistic observance of the Jewish Sabbath (Co 2:16-17&NN, and possibly Ga 4:8-10&N), although he asks the believers in Corinth to set aside money for the Jewish poor of Jerusalem also on "the first day of the sabbaton" (1С 16:2&N), and although Yochanan at Rv 1:10 speaks of what most translators render as "the Lord's day" (I translate it "the Day of the Lord"; see note there), nevertheless the meeting in Ephesus must have been on Saturday night. For in this city, as in other places, Jewish believers constituted the core of the congregation — Sha'ul "took the talmidim with him" from the synagogue (19:8-9), with many Gentiles coming to faith later (19:17, 20). The Jewish believers, as explained, would have been accustomed to prolonging Shabbat, so that they would probably not have minded Sha'ul's talking till midnight A Saturday night meeting would continue the God-oriented spirit of Shabbat, rather than require the believers to shift their concern from workaday matters, as would be the case on Sunday night.

I do not find the New Testament commanding a specific day of the week for worship. There can be no objection whatever to the practice adopted later by a Gentile-dominated Church of celebrating "the Lord's Day" on Sunday, including Sunday night; but this custom must not be read back into New Testament times. On the other hand, Messianic Jews who worship on Saturday night rather than Sunday can Find warrant for their practice in this verse. 

8. Now there were many oil lamps burning in the upstairs room where we were meeting,
9. and there was a young fellow named Eutychus sitting on the window-sill. As Sha’ul’s drash went on and on, Eutychus grew sleepier and sleepier; until finally he went sound asleep and fell from the third story to the ground. When they picked him up, he was dead.
The many oil lamps burning made the room smoky and stuffy and depleted the oxygen. I suppose Eutychus was sitting on the window sill to get some air. Unfortunately it still didn't keep him from going sound asleep and falling to his death. 

10. But Sha’ul went down, threw himself onto him, put his arms around him and said, “Don’t be upset, he’s alive!”
Compare Kefa's raising Tavita from the dead (9:35-41; see 19:11-12N) and Yeshua's raising three people from the dead; see Yn 11:17N. 

11. Then he went back upstairs, broke the bread and ate. He continued talking with them till daylight, then left.
12. So, greatly relieved, they brought the boy home alive.
13. We went on ahead to the ship and set sail for Assos, where we were planning to take Sha’ul aboard — he had arranged this because he wanted to go there by land.
14. After he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene.
15. The next day, we sailed from there and arrived off Chios; the following day, we crossed over to Samos; and the day after that, we reached Miletus.
16. For Sha’ul had decided to bypass Ephesus on his voyage, in order to avoid losing time in the province of Asia, because he was hurrying to get to Yerushalayim, if possible in time to celebrate Shavu‘ot.
Shavu'ot ("Weeks," Pentecost; see 2:IN). Sha'ul's desire to hurry to YerushaJayim for Shavu 'ot shows that as a Messianic Jew he remained devoted to the Torah and to Jewish practice (see 13:9N). We can see this also from the fact that on another occasion he felt he had to justify a decision to remain in Ephesus and not go up to Jerusalem for this pilgrim festival (1С 16:8-9&N). 

17. But he did send from Miletus to Ephesus, summoning the elders of the Messianic community.
18. When they arrived, he said to them, “You yourselves know how, from the first day I set foot in the province of Asia, I was with you the whole time,
19. serving the Lord with much humility and with tears, in spite of the tests I had to undergo because of the plots of the unbelieving Jews.
You yourselves know how... I was with you... serving... with much humility. Sha'ul does not indulge in self-praise but appeals to the judgment of the Ephesian congregation's elders, who had known and experienced him for three years (v. 31). While often accused, even in the New Testament itself (2C 10:1-13:10), of pride in his accomplishments, nevertheless, like Moses, who could write that he was "the meekest of all men on the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:3, Mt ll:28-30&N), Sha'ul had reached a point where he could speak of himself without either undue praise or undue modesty. (He had also learned not to be unduly affected by physical circumstances and possessions, Pp 4:12.) 

20. You know that I held back nothing that could be helpful to you, and that I taught you both in public and from house to house,
21. declaring with utmost seriousness the same message to Jews and Greeks alike: turn from sin to God; and put your trust in our Lord, Yeshua the Messiah.
The Gospel is the same for Jews as for non-Jews: repentance and trust in God through Yeshua the Messiah. The Two-Covenant theory (see Yn 14:6&N) is wrong. 

22. “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Yerushalayim. I don’t know what will happen to me there,
23. other than that in every city the Ruach HaKodesh keeps warning me that imprisonment and persecution await me.
See 19:21 for Sha'ul's first statement of this intention, and 21:4, 10-14 for further interaction with the Holy Spirit on the matter. The rest of the book of Acts deals with the dramatic outworking of this plan and premonition. 

24. But I consider my own life of no importance to me whatsoever, as long as I can finish the course ahead of me, the task I received from the Lord Yeshua — to declare in depth the Good News of God’s love and kindness.
25. “Now, listen! I know that none of you people among whom I have gone about proclaiming the Kingdom will ever see me again.
26. Therefore, I testify on this day that I am innocent of the blood of all.
27. For I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the whole plan of God.
I am innocent of the blood of all. To the unbelieving Jews of Corinth Sha'ul had said, "Your blood be on your own heads; for my part, I am clean" (18:6&N). At the outset the Corinthians had refused to hear him; these Ephesian elders, attentive till now, still risk falling away and having blood guilt on their heads. The serious problems that will arise in Ephesus after he leaves (vv. 28-31) he has tried to avert by proclaiming the whole plan of God; their responsibility is to remain in "the care of the Lord and the message of his love and kindness" (v. 32). 

28. “Watch out for yourselves, and for all the flock in which the Ruach HaKodesh has placed you as leaders, to shepherd God’s Messianic community, which he won for himself at the cost of his own Son’s blood.
29. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you; and they won’t spare the flock.
30. Even from among your own number, men will arise and teach perversions of the truth, in order to drag away the talmidim after themselves.
31. So stay alert! Remember that for three years, night and day, with tears in my eyes, I never stopped warning you!
32. “And now I entrust you to the care of the Lord and to the message of his love and kindness, for it can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who have been set apart for God.
33. “I have not wanted for myself anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.
34. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have provided not only for my own needs, but for the needs of my co-workers as well.
35. In everything I have given you an example of how, by working hard like this, you must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Yeshua himself, ‘There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.’”
The words of the Lord Yeshua himself, "There is more happiness in giving than in receiving." These words of Yeshua's appear nowhere else in the New Testament — that is, they are not found in the Gospels. There are many apocryphal New Testament books which contain numerous purported other sayings of Yeshua. See Lk 2:52N.

Sha'ul earned his own living and did not become a burden to the Ephesians (see 18:3&N). 

36. When he had finished speaking, Sha’ul kneeled down with them all and prayed.
Sha'ul kneeled down with them all and prayed. See Lk 22:41&N. 

37. They were all in tears as they threw their arms around his neck and kissed him farewell.
38. What saddened them the most was his remark that they would never see him again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.

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