Acts Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 28

1. After our escape, we learned that the island was called Malta.
2. Its people showed extraordinary kindness — it was cold and it had started to rain, so they lit a bonfire and welcomed us all.
3. Sha’ul had gathered a bundle of sticks and was adding them to the fire, when a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, fastened itself to his hand.
4. The islanders saw the creature hanging from Sha’ul’s hand and said to one another, “This man must be a murderer. Even though he escaped the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.”
5. But he shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no harm.
6. They waited, expecting him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing that nothing amiss was happening to him, they reversed their opinion and said he was a god.
The deliverance confirms justice, refutes superstition and fulfills Yeshua's promise that believers can expect miracles (Mk 16:17-18, Lk 10:19). They said he was a god. Compare 14:11-12. 

7. Nearby were lands belonging to the governor of the island, whose name was Publius. He received us in a friendly manner and put us up for three days.
8. Now it so happened that Publius’ father was lying in bed, sick with fever attacks and dysentery. Sha’ul went in to him, prayed, placed his hands on him and healed him.
Yeshua often laid his hands on the person to be healed (Mk 5:23, 6:5, 16:18; Lk 4:40, 12:13). Chananyah laid his hands on Shaul that he might regain his sight (9:12, 17). See also 5:12. 

9. After this happened, the rest of those on the island who had ailments came and were healed.
10. They heaped honors on us; and when the time came for us to sail, they provided the supplies we needed.
11. After three months, we sailed away on a ship from Alexandria called “Twin Gods,” which had passed the winter at the island.
12. We landed at Syracuse and stayed three days.
13. From there, we arrived at Rhegium by tacking; but after one day, a south wind sprang up; so we made it to Puteoli the second day.
14. There we found brothers who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we went on toward Rome.
Puteoli had a strong colony of Jews, so it is not surprising that some of them were Messianic. 

15. The brothers there had heard about us and came as far as Appian Market and Three Inns to meet us. When Sha’ul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.
16. And when we arrived at Rome, the officer allowed Sha’ul to stay by himself, though guarded by a soldier.
We arrived in Rome, where Sha'ul had appealed to be tried before the Emperor (25:9-1 l&N). 

17. After three days Sha’ul called a meeting of the local Jewish leaders. When they had gathered, he said to them: “Brothers, although I have done nothing against either our people or the traditions of our fathers, I was made a prisoner in Yerushalayim and handed over to the Romans.
The local Jewish leaders. In his three days Sha'ul had arranged with (he brothers in the Roman community, of whom he knew many (see Romans 16), to draw up a list of Jewish community leaders; for he would quickly have ascertained what these leaders later said themselves (vv. 21-22), that they knew very little about the Gospel. Thus Sha'ul saw an evangelistic opportunity. The believers in the Roman congregation had apparently not done much to evangelize the 10.000 or more Jews living in Rome (Encyclopedia Judaica 14:242), or they had tried but been ineffective. Perhaps they wished to avoid the sort of persecution some of them might have already experienced in Yerushalayim when they came to faith at or shortly after Shavu'ot (2:10), or after the martyrdom of Stephen (8:1-3). Or the persecution alluded to in 18:2&N might have shocked them into silence. 

18. They examined me and were ready to release me, because I had done nothing to justify a death sentence.
19. But when the Judeans objected, I was forced to appeal to the Emperor — not that I had any charge to make against my own people.
When the Judeans (Greek loudaioi) objected. At 26:2, 7, 21 the same word is rendered "Jews," because there the contrast is between Jews and Romans. Here, speaking to Jews, Sha'ul is referring specifically to the Jews of Judea, not "the Jews" in general. See 26:2N, 26:2IN: Yn 1:19N. 

20. This is why I have asked to see you and speak with you, for it is because of the hope of Isra’el that I have this chain around me.”
21. They said to him, “We have not received any letters about you from Y’hudah, and none of the brothers who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you.
22. But we do think it would be appropriate to hear your views from you, yourself; for all we know about this sect is that people everywhere speak against it.”
These Jewish leaders were very open-minded, more so than today's usually are. The situation in Rome was different from the others described in the book of Acts, where very quickly the non-Messianic Jewish community took a hostile position against the Messianics. Somehow the Roman believers avoided such a clash with the non-Messianic synagogues, so that at Sha'ul's arrival they were willing to listen and not immediately opposed. 

23. So they arranged a day with him and came to his quarters in large numbers. From morning until evening he explained the matter to them, giving a thorough witness about the Kingdom of God and making use of both the Torah of Moshe and the Prophets to persuade them about Yeshua.
Surely this all-day session in which large numbers of "local Jewish leaders" (v. 17) of the capital of the world came to visit the world's leading evangelist in order to hear about Messianic Judaism must be unique in world history. Sha'ul's procedure with them was the same as with Jewish people everywhere: he appealed to the Tanakh, making use of both the Torah of Moshe and the Prophets to persuade them about Yeshua. Shu'ul could use the Scriptures freely, since many of the Jewish leaders probably knew them by heart. But Sha'ul's central topic was the Kingdom of God. This term (and its equivalent, "Kingdom of Heaven") is used frequently in the Gospels (see Mt 3:2N); but it appears in Acts only at 1:3,8:12,14:5,19:8 and here (compare also 1:6). At 15: ION a paragraph from the Mishna was cited in which Jews are enjoined to accept "the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven" (acknowledging God and who he is) even before accepting "the yoke of the miizvot." Rather than presenting the Gospel as something alien or superior to Judaism. Sha'ul discusses a topic well known to his audience of Jewish leaders; and his object is to expand their conception of it by his thorough witness. Sha'ul must have spent hours explaining what the whole New Testament teaches, namely, that at this point in history accepting "the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven" implies accepting the entire Gospel. God's active and present rulership is expressed through the Messiahship and Lordship of Yeshua, the salvation he brings lo humanity, and the improvement he brings to the inner lives and outward behavior of believers through the continuing work of the Holy Spirit ("sanctification"). 

24. Some were convinced by what he said,
25. while others refused to believe. So they left, disagreeing among themselves, after Sha’ul had made one final statement: “The Ruach HaKodesh spoke well in saying to your fathers through Yesha‘yahu the prophet,
Some were convinced by what he said, while others refused to believe (Greek apisted, "disbelieve, refuse to believe, be unfaithful"). Of the "large numbers" of Jewish leaders present (v. 23), "some" (Greek oi men, "these, on the one hand") were persuaded and "some" (oi de, "these, on the other") disbelieved, refused to believe. The "some" and the "some" are correlative, of comparable size, of more or less the same order of magnitude. What may reasonably be concluded, therefore, is thai the whole leadership of Rome's Jewish community was well represented by the "large numbers." and that a sizeable proportion of them, though not necessarily half, were persuaded of the truth of Messianic Judaism then and there. This is why I say that the meeting must be unique in world history (v. 23N) — 1 know of no other reported instance of a sizeable proportion of a major Jewish community's leadership coming to faith in the Gospel in one day.

So they left, disagreeing among themselves. The Gospel properly proclaimed always causes division, because those who believe it and those who do not have different world-outlooks (see 20:3N, Mt 10:35-36, Yn 7:43N). Since those who were persuaded were leaders, they surely returned to their synagogues and communicated the Gospel themselves; so that in due time, especially with Sha'ul's continued teaching over the next two years (v. 30), entire synagogues must have become Messianic. A "people-movement" took place in Rome, a movement in which entire families and communities were won to the Lord Yeshua the Messiah. Though we are not told this directly, the indications are present: an openness to the Gospel rather than a predisposition against it, leaders being persuaded, substantial numbers being involved, broad community participation, respect for the evangelist and Spirit-blessed ministry. 

26. 'Go to this people and say, “You will keep on hearing but never understand, and you will keep on seeing but never perceive,
27. because the heart of this people has grown thick — with their ears they barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, for fear that they should see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and do t’shuvah, so that I could heal them'" (Isaiah 6:9–10).
Sha'ul's final statement quoting Isaiah 6:9-10 is nol an imprecation, an anathema, or a curse, but a warning to the some who refused to believe, a last word of persuasion recalling the events that took place in Yesha'yahu's day and which are repealed whenever people harden their hearts. Like Pharaoh, who hardened his heart too often, God eventually seals and makes final the hardening, so that it becomes impossible for the person to dot'shuvah (in curlier editions of the JNT, return to God), that is, "repent": seeMt 3:2N, 13:13-15N, Yn 12:40N, Ro9:17-21&NN. Heeding the quotation prevents suffering its consequences. 

28. Therefore, let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Goyim, and they will listen!”
This salvation of God has been sent to the Goyim and they will listen! From 1:8&N we have seen that one purpose, perhaps the main purpose, of the book of Acts has been to show that the Gospel would spread "to the ends of the earth" and permeate the Gentile peoples. Some Christians have gone beyond this and claimed to see in the book of Acts the rejection of the Gospel by "the Jews," so that God rejected them and turned to the Gentiles, who gladly received the message. It is a fact that God's truth and his promises became available to Gentiles in a new way as a result of what God did during the early years of the Messianic Community, as reported in the book of Acts; for it was decided that Gentiles did not have to become Jews in order to become Christians (10:l-ll:18&NN, 15:1-29&NN, 21:20-27&NN). Also it is a fact that Gentiles in substantial numbers believed the Gospel. Nevertheless, as we have just seen, Jews continued accepting Yeshua as Israel's Messiah right up to the very day on which the words of this verse were spoken. God had not rejected Jewish people as unworthy of the Gospel (see Roll:lff.).

Some argue that the destruction of Yerushalay im in 70 C.E. closed the age of God's dealings with the Jews, and that Rome, the Gentile capital of the world, was to be the new center for propagating God's truth. Cited as evidence is that the book of Acts starts in Yerushalay im and ends in Rome. Certainly Rome became and remains the center for the largest Christian denomination, the Roman Catholic Church. But Jerusalem has never ceased to be the holy city, "beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth" (Psalm 48:3(2)), reverenced by three monotheistic religions. Now, after being "trampled down by the Goyim" for 1,897 years, it is at last once more in the hands of the Jewish people (since 1967); and with the apparent fulfillment of Yeshua's prophecy concerning this (Lk 21:24&N) it should, at the very least, be clear to all that God is continuing his work with the Jewish people.

The proper perspective is this: the Gospel was to move out from Jerusalem and the Jews to the Gentiles in "the ends of the earth," that is, to Rome and beyond. This was a new work of God. though not without antecedents, since Jews had been making proselytes for centuries (see Esther 8:17, Mt 23:15&N). It is not that "the Jews" were rejected but that the Gentiles were accepted (Ep 2:11-16&NN). This message shocked many Jews, and some Jews today still look down on Christianity as an "easy religion" not worthy of Jewish credence. This is why it was necessary to have the longest book in the New Testament deal with the question; and the answer of the book of Acts is that despite some Jewish resistance, God is bringing his truth to Gentiles and they are being included in the people of God without converting to Judaism. Yet the Jews are no less God's people — "with respect to being chosen they are loved for the Patriarchs' sake, for God's free gifts and his calling are irrevocable" (Ro 11:28-29). 

29. Some manuscripts include verse 29: After he had said this, the Jews left, arguing vehemently among themselves.

This verse, not found in the best manuscripts, adds little, since we know that "they left, disagreeing among themselves" (v. 25), and obviously Sha'ul's parting shot did nothing to mute the debate! 

30. Sha’ul remained two whole years in a place he rented for himself; and he continued receiving all who came to see him,
As always, Sha'ul supported himself and did not rely on others, especially not on young and struggling Messianic congregations. In this respect he was like other rabbis of his day. See 18:3N. 

31. openly and without hindrance proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Yeshua the Messiah.
Openly and without hindrance proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Yeshua the Messiah (see v. 23&N). The perfect note on which to end the book, whose purpose is secondarily historical and primarily inspirational. Even though under house arrest awaiting trial, Sha'ul was free — free for the one thing that gave meaning to his life, proclaiming the Gospel. By his life as well as his words he showed forth the Messiah in him; he was "a light to the Gentiles" (Isaiah 49:6) and to Jews too.

From prison (though possibly elsewhere) he wrote the letters to the Philippians, Ephesians and Colossians. Scholars are divided over whether he was ever set free. Some believe he eventually reached Spain, as was his desire (Ro 15:24); this would imply he was freed at least once. During his lime of freedom he might have again visited the congregations he had established in Greece and Asia Minor; then, after a second arrest, he would have written his last letter, 2 Timothy, in which he anticipates his pending execution by writing, in the perfect tense, "I have fought the good fight, 1 have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Ti 4:7). Tradition has it that he was condemned to death and executed in Rome between 64 and 68 C.E. Some think Luke intended to write a third book describing Sha'ul's life after the point at which Acts ends, since the story does not seem to be finished. But Luke's perspective in these last verses seems to be one of not knowing more. However, all this is based on inferences; there is no conclusive evidence.

The concluding passage of the book of Acts contains very important material for understanding the relationship between Judaism and Christianity, Gospel and Tanakh, Messianic and non-Messianic Judaism, Jewish and Gentile Christians. The conclusion is that Sha'ul had a very successful evangelistic ministry among the Jewish community of Rome, and that entire synagogues became Messianic. It is one of the high points of Messianic Jewish history. 

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