Chrysostom on Acts 2700
ACTS XII. 18, 19.—“Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter. And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judea to Caesarea, and there abode.”
Some persons, it is likely, are at a loss how to explain it, that God should quietly look on while (His) champions1 are put to death, and now again the soldiers on account of Peter: and yet it was possible for Him after (delivering) Peter to rescue them also. But it was not yet the time of judgment, so as to render to each according to his deserts. And besides, it was not Peter that put them into his hands. For the thing that most annoyed him was the being mocked; just as in the case of his grandfather when he was deceived by the wise men, that was what made him (feel) cut to the heart—the being (eluded and) made ridiculous.2 “And having put them to the question,” it says, “he ordered them to be led away to execution.” (Mt 2,16). And yet he had heard from them—for he had put them to the question—both that the chains had been left, and that he had taken his sandals, and that until that night he was with them. “Having put them to the question:” but what did they conceal?3 Why then did they not themselves also flee? “He ordered them to be led away to execution:” and yet he ought to have marvelled, ought to have been astonished at this. The consequence is, by the death of these men (the thing), is made manifest to all: both his wickedness is exposed to view, and (it is made clear that) the wonder (is) of God. “And he went down from Judea to Caesarea, and there abode: and Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king’s chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king’s country. And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, ‘It is the voice of a god, and not of a man,’ And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.” (v. 20,23). * * But see how (the writer) here does not hide these things.4 Why does he mention this history? Say, what has it to do with the Gospel, that Herod is incensed with the Tyrians and Sidonians? It is not a small matter, even this, how immediately justice seized him; although not because of Peter, but because of his arrogant speaking. And yet, it may be said, if those shouted, what is that to him? Because he accepted the acclamation, because he accounted himself to be worthy of the adoration. Through him those most receive a lesson, who so thoughtlessly flattered him (al). oi kolakeuonte"). Observe again, while both parties deserve punishment, this man is punished. For this is not the time of judgment, but He punishes him that had most to answer for, leaving the others to profit by this man’s fate.5 “And the word of God,” it says, “grew,” i.e. in consequence of this, “and multiplied.” (v. 24). Do you mark God’s providential management? “But Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.” (v. 25). “Now there were in the Church that was at Antioch, certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaën, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.”6 (ch. 13,1). He still mentions Barnabas first: for Paul was not yet famous, he had not yet wrought any sign. “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” (v. 2, 3). What means, “Ministering?” Preaching. “Separate for Me,” it says, “Barnabas and Saul.” What means, “Separate for Me?” For the work, for the Apostleship. See again by what persons he is ordained (gumnotera. Cat). semnotera, “more awful.”) By Lucius the Cyrenean and Manaën, or rather, by the Spirit. The less the persons, the more palpable the grace. He is ordained henceforth to Apostleship, so as to preach with authority. How then does he himself say, “Not from men, nor by man?”7 (Ga 1,1). Because it was not man that called or brought him over: this is why he says, “Not from men. Neither by man,” that is, that he was not sent by this (man), but by the Spirit. Wherefore also (the writer) thus proceeds: “So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.” (v. 4). But let us look over again what has been said.
(Recapitulation). “And when it was day,” etc. (v. 18). For8 if the Angel had brought out the soldiers also, along with Peter, it would have been thought a case of flight. Then why, you may ask, was it not otherwise managed? Why, where is the harm? Now, if we see that they who have suffered unjustly, take no harm, we shall not raise these questions. For why do you not say the same of James? Why did not (God) rescue him? “There was no small stir among the soldiers.” So (clearly) had they perceived nothing (of what had happened). Lo, I take up the plea in their defence. The chains were there, and the keepers within, and the prison shut, nowhere a wall broken through, all told the same tale: the man had been carried off:9 why dost thou condemn them? Had they wished to let him off, they would have done it before, or would have gone out with him. “But he gave them money?” (ch. 3,6). And how should he, who had not to give even to a poor man, have the means to give to these? And then neither had the chains been broken, nor were they loosed. He ought to have seen, that the thing was of God, and no work of man. “And he went down from Judea to Caesarea, and there abode. And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon,” etc. (v. 19). He is now going to mention (a matter of) history: this is the reason why he adds the names, that it may be shown how he keeps to the truth in all things. “And,” it says, “having made Blastus the king’s chamberlain their friend, they desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king’s country.” (v. 20, 21). For probably there was a famine. “And on a set day,” etc. (Joseph). Ant. xix). Josephus also says this, that he fell into a lingering disease. Now the generality were not aware of this,10 but the Apostle sets it down: yet at the same time their ignorance was an advantage, in regard that they imputed what befell (Agrippa) to his putting James and the soldiers to death. Observe, when he slew the Apostle, he did nothing of this sort but when (he slew) these; in fact he knew not what to say about it:11 as being at a loss, then, and feeling ashamed, “he went down from Judea to Caesarea.” I suppose it was also to bring those (men of Tyre and Sidon) to apologize, that he withdrew (from Jerusalem): for with those he was incensed, while paying such court to these. See how vainglorious the man is: meaning to confer the boon upon them, he makes an harangue. But Josephus says, that he was also arrayed in a splendid robe made of silver. Observe both what flatterers those were, and what a high spirit was shown by the Apostles: the man whom the whole nation so courted, the same they held in contempt. (v. 24). But observe again a great refreshing granted to them, and the numberless benefits accruing from the vengeance inflicted upon him. But if this man, because it was said to him, “It is the voice of God and not of a man (v. 22) although he said nothing himself, suffered such things: much more should Christ, had He not Himself been God (have suffered) for saying always as He did, “These words of mine are not Mine” (Jn 14,10 Jn 18,36) and, “Angels minister to Me,” and such like. But that man ended His life by a shameful and miserable death, and thenceforth no more is seen of him. And observe him also, easily talked over even by Blastus, like a poor creature, soon incensed and again pacified, and on all occasions a slave of the populace, with nothing free and independent about him. But mark also the authority of the Holy Ghost: “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate Me Barnabas and Saul.” (ch. 13,2). What being would have dared, if not of the same authority, to say this? “Separate,” etc. But this is done, that they may not keep together among themselves. The Spirit saw that they had greater power, and were able to be sufficient for many. And how did He speak to them? Probably by prophets: therefore the writer premises, that there were prophets also. And they were fasting and ministering: that thou mayest learn that there was need of great sobriety. In Antioch he is ordained, where he preaches. Why did He not say, Separate for the Lord, but, “For me?” It shows that He is of one authority and power. “And when they had fasted,” etc. Seest thou what a great thing fasting is? “So they being sentforth by the Holy Ghost:” it shows that the Spirit did all.
A great, yes a great good is fasting: it is circumscribed by no limits. When need was to ordain, then they fast: and to them while fasting, the Spirit spake. Thus much only do I enjoin: (I say) not fast, but abstain from luxury. Let us seek meats to nourish, not things to ruin us; seek meats for food, not occasions of diseases, of diseases both of soul and body: seek food which hath comfort, not luxury which is full of discomfort: the one is luxury, the other mischief; the one is pleasure, the other pain; the one is agreeable to nature, the other contrary to nature. For say, if one should give thee hemlock juice to drink, would it not be against nature? if one should give thee logs and stones, wouldest thou not reject them? Of course, for they are against nature. Well, and so is luxury. For just as in a city, under an invasion of enemies when there has been siege and tumult, great is the uproar, so is it in the soul, under invasion of wine and luxury. “Who hath woe? who hath tumults? who hath discomforts and babblings? Are they not they that tarry long at the wine? Whose are bloodshot eyes?” (Pr 23,29-30) But yet, say what we will, we shall not bring off those who give themselves up to luxury, unless12 we bring into conflict therewith a different affection. And first, let us address ourselves to the women. Nothing uglier than a woman given to luxury, nothing uglier than a woman given to drink. The bloom of her complexion is faded: the calm and mild expression of the eyes is rendered turbid, as when a cloud intercepts the rays of the sunshine. It is a vulgar, (aneleuqeron) slave-like, thoroughly low-lived habit. How disgusting is a woman when from her breath you catch sour whiffs of fetid wine: a woman belching, giving out a fume (cumon) of decomposing meats; herself weighed down, unable to keep upright; her face flushed with an unnatural red; yawning incessantly, and everything swimming in a mist before her eyes! But not such, she that abstains from luxurious living: no (this abstinence makes her look) a more beautiful, well-bred (swfronestera) woman. For even to the body, the composure of the soul imparts a beauty of its own. Do not imagine that the impression of beauty results only from the bodily features. Give me a handsome girl, but turbulent (tetaragmenhn), loquacious, railing, given to drink, extravagant, (and tell me) if she is not worse-looking than any ugly woman? But if she were bashful, if she would hold her peace, if she learnt to blush, if to speak modestly (summetrw"), if to find time for fastings; her beauty would be twice as great, her freshness would be heightened, her look more engaging, fraught with modesty and good breeding (swfrosunh" kai kosmiothto"). Now then, shall we speak of men? What can be uglier than a man in drink? He is an object of ridicule to his servants, of ridicule to his enemies, of pity to his friends; deserving condemnation without end: a wild beast rather than a human being; for to devour much food is proper to panther, and lion, and bear. No wonder (that they do so), for those creatures have not a reasonable soul. And yet even they, if they be gorged with food more than they need, and beyond the measure appointed them by nature, get their whole body ruined by it: how much more we? Therefore hath God contracted our stomach into a small compass; therefore hath He marked out a small measure of sustenance, that He may instruct us to attend to the soul.
Let us consider our very make, and we shall see there is in us but one little part that has this operation—for our mouth and tongue are meant for singing hymns, our throat for voice—therefore the very necessity of nature has tied us down, that we may not, even involuntarily, get into much trouble (pragmateian) (in this way). Since, if indeed luxurious living had not its pains, nor sickness and infirmities, it might be tolerated: but as the case is, He hath stinted thee by restrictions of nature, that even if thou wish to exceed, thou mayest not be able to do so. Is not pleasure thine object, beloved? This thou shalt find from moderation. Is not health? This too thou shalt so gain. Is not easiness of mind? This too. Is not freedom? is not vigor and good habit of body, is not sobriety and alertness of mind? (All these thou shalt find); so entirely are all good things there, while in the other are the contraries to these, discomfort, distemper, disease, embarrassment—waste of substance (aneleuqeria). Then how comes it, you will ask, that we all run eagerly after this? It comes of disease. For say, what is it that makes the sick man hanker after the thing that does him harm? Is not this very hankering a part of his disease? Why is it that the lame man does not walk upright? This very thing, does it come of his being lazy, and not choosing to go to the physician? For there are some things, in which the pleasure they bring with them is temporary, but lasting the punishment: others just the contrary, in which the endurance is for a time, the pleasure perpetual. He, therefore, that has so little solidity and strength of purpose as not to slight present sweets for future, is soon overcome. Say, how came Esau to be overcome? how came he to prefer the present pleasure to the future honor? Through want of solidity and firmness of character. (Gn 25,33). And this fault itself, say you, whence comes it? Of our ownselves: and it is plain from this consideration. When we have the mind, we do rouse ourselves, and become capable of endurance. Certain it is, if at any time necessity comes upon us, nay, often only from a spirit of emulation, we get to see clearly what is useful for us. When therefore thou art about to indulge in luxury, consider how brief the pleasure, consider the loss—for loss it is indeed to spend so much money to one’s own hurt—the diseases, the infirmities: and despise luxury. How many shall I enumerate who have suffered evils from indulgence? Noah was drunken, and was exposed in his nakedness, and see what evils came of this. (Gn 9,20). Esau through greediness abandoned his birthright, and was set upon fratricide. The people of Israel “sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.” (Ex 32,6). Therefore saith the Scripture, “When thou hast eaten and drunken, remember the Lord thy God.” (Dt 6,12). For they fell over a precipice, in failing into luxury. “The widow,” he saith, “that liveth in pleasure, is dead while she liveth” (1Tm 5,6): and again, “The beloved waxed sleek, grew thick, and kicked” (Dt 32,15): and again the Apostle, “Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” (Rm 13,14). I am not enacting as a law that there shall be fasting, for indeed there is no one who would listen; but I am doing away with daintiness, I am cutting off luxury for the sake of your own profit: for like a winter torrent, luxury overthrows all: there is nothing to stop its course: it casts out from a kingdom: what is the gain of it (ti to pleon)? Would you enjoy a (real) luxury? Give to the poor; invite Christ, so that even after the table is removed, you may still have this luxury to enjoy. For now, indeed, you have it not, and no wonder: but then you will have it. Would you taste a (real) luxury? Nourish your soul, give to her of that food to which she is used: do not kill her by starvation.—It is the time for war, the time for contest: and do you sit enjoying yourself? Do you not see even those who wield sceptres, how they live frugally while abroad on their campaigns? “We wrestle not against flesh and blood” (Ep 6,12); and are you fattening yourself when about to wrestle? The adversary stands grinding his teeth, and are you giving a loose to jollity, and devoting yourself to the table? I know that I speak these things in vain, yet not (in vain) for all. “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Lc 8,8). Christ is pining through hunger, and are you frittering yourself away (diaspo") with gluttony? Two inconsistencies (Duo ametriai). For what evil does not luxury cause? It is contrary to itself: so that I know not. how it gets its name: but just as that is called glory, which is (really) infamy, and that riches, which in truth is poverty, so the name of luxury is given to that which in reality is nauseousness. Do we intend ourselves for the shambles, that we so fatten ourselves? Why cater for the worm that it may have a sumptuous larder? Why make more of their humors (icwra")? Why store up in yourself sources of sweat and rank smelling? Why make yourself useless for everything? Do you wish your eye to be strong? Get your body well strung? For in musical strings, that which is coarse and not refined, is not fit to produce musical tones, but that which has been well scraped, stretches well, and vibrates with full harmony. Why do you bury the soul alive? why make the wall about it thicker? Why increase the reek and the cloud, with fumes like a mist steaming up from all sides? If none other, let the wrestlers teach you, that the more spare the body, the stronger it is: and (then) also the soul is more vigorous. In fact, it is like charioteer and horse. But there you see, just as in the case of men giving themselves to luxury, and making themselves plump, so the plump horses are unwieldy, and give the driver much ado. One may think one’s self (agaphton) well off, even with a horse obedient to the rein and well-limbed, to be able to carry off the prize: but when the driver is forced to drag the horse along, and when the horse falls, though he goad him ever so much, he cannot make him get up, be he ever so skilful himself, he will be deprived of the victory. Then let us not endure to see our soul wronged because of the body, but let us make the soul herself more clear-sighted, let us make her wing light, her bonds looser: let us feed her with discourse, with frugality, (feeding) the body only so much that it may be healthy, that it may be vigorous, that it may rejoice and not be in pain: that having in this sort well ordered our concerns, we may be enabled to lay hold upon the highest virtue, and to attain unto the eternal good things by the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom, to the Father and Holy Ghost together, be glory, dominion, honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen.
1 perieiden tou" aulhta" apollumenou": 1,e. those (as St. Stephen, St. James) engaged in contending for the heavenly prize. The mod. t. substitutes, “Many are quite at a loss, how God could quietly look on while his children (or servants? tou" paida", Ben). infantes) were put to death because of Him, and now again,” etc. After this sentence, the same inserts from the recapitulation: “But—if the Angel,” etc. to
“why did He not rescue him? and besides”—
2 mallon auton epoiei diapriesuai (as in ch. vii 54, cut to the heart with passion) kai katagelaston einai. The last words are either misplaced, or something is wanting; perhaps (after diapriesuai), to diakrouesuai kai katagelaston einai.
3 i. e. what was to be drawn from them by the torture? Had they let him out, they would have contrived appearances, or would themselves have fled. But the reporter’s notes of what St. Chrys. said, seem to be very defective, and the arrangement much confused.
4 all ora pw" outo" ou kruptei tauta. In the recapitulation (see (note 3, p. 175) he says, that the death of Herod was regarded as a judgment for his having slain James and the soldiers. Here, it seems, he must have said something to that effect; then, “but observe how St. Lc does not conceal the true state of the case, viz. that he was punished not for this, but for the sin which he proceeds to mention.” We have transposed the text 5,20–23). mss. and Edd. place it before ou uikron oude touto estin, thus separating these words from their connection with the preceding question,
5 Josephus’ narrative of the death of Herod (Ant. 19,8, 2) is of peculiar interest here on account of its substantial agreement with that of Luke. The following points of agreement may be noted: (1) The place was Caesarea. (2) He was attacked by disease in a public assembly when, arrayed in gorgeous apparel, he received the impious flatteries of the people. (3) His disease and death were a penalty for accepting the flattery of those who accorded to him divine honors. Thus the main outlines are the same. Josephus introduces some historical notices, such as that the occasion was a celebration in honor of the Emperor Claudius, which are wanting in Luke. He also relates that after receiving the people’s flattery, Herod observed an owl perced on a rope above him, which he interpreted at once as an omen of the fate which soon befell him. The supernatural element—“an angel smote him”—is wanting in Josephus. The Jewish historian is less specific in describing the disease which he speaks of as violent pains in the bowels and adds that after the attack, Herod lingered five days and died in the fifty-fourth year of his age and the seventh of his reign.—G. B. S.
6 At this point (ch. xiii). begins the second part of the Book of Acts which has chiefly to do with the missionary labors of Paul. It is a reasonable supposition that the previous chapters rest upon different documents from those which follow. From chapter 16,onward occur the so-called “we” passages (e. g. 16,10; xx, 6. 21,1; 27,1) in which the writer, identifying himself with his narratives, indicates that he writes from personal knowledge and experience. The appointment of Barnabas and Saul at Antioch for missionary service, marked an epoch in the history of the early church and practically settled the questions relating to the admission of the Gentiles to the Christian community.—G. B. S.
7 mss. and Edd). di anurwpwn, but the singular is implied below in ouc upo toude. In the old text, b.c. Cat. “Not from men nor by men? Because not man called nor brought him over: that is, neither by men; therefore he says, that he was not sent (B., I was not sent) by this,” etc. The mod. text “Not from men neither by men. The one, not from men, he uses to show that not man, etc.: and the other, neither by men, that he was not sent by this (man), but by the Spirit. Wherefore,” etc.
8 Here he further answers the question raised in the opening of the discourse, The mod. text transposes it to that place, beginning the recapitulation with, “‘And when it was day there was no small stir among the soldiers because of Peter, and having put the keepers to thio question, he ordered them to be led away to execution.’ So senseless was he, outw" ouk hsueto, that he even sets about punishing them unjustly.” The latter clause is added by the innovator. For hsueto Cat. has preserved the true reading, Usuonto.
9 anarpasto" o anurwpo" gegone. Ben). homo ille raptus non est.
10 i. e. of the circumstances related v. 22, 23.—Below, plhn alla kai h agnoia wfelei, 1,e. to the believers: and yet, as he says above, the writer does not conceal the facts: see note 3, p. 174.
11 mss. and Edd). onden toiouton eipgasato: ote de toutou", loipon en afasia hn: what this means, is very obscure, only the last clause seems to be explained by the following, ate oun hporhkw" kai aiscunomeno", 1,e. not knowing what to think of it, he withdrew from Jerusalem. Ben). quando illos, nihil dicebat. Erasm., et quando alios, nihil de illis traditur.—Below, AEEmoi dokei kai ekeinou" pro" thn apologian enagwn apagagein wrgizeto gar ekeinoi", toutou" outw qerapeuwn. By ekeinou", ekeinoi", he means the Tyrians and Sidonians: apagagein, sc). eauton, to have withdrawn himself from Jerusalem, to Caesarea, nearer to Tyre and Sidon. The innovator substitutes, AEEmoi dokei kai ekeinou" apagagein boulomeno, pro" apologian hlqe toutwn: wrgizeto gar k. t. l. which Ben. renders Mihi videtur, cum illos abducere vellet, ad hos venisse ut sese purgaret.
12 ouk aposthsomen <`85Ÿan mh eteron antisthswmen paqo" (Mod. text pro" et. and to paqo"), 1,e. unless, as Solomon does in the last clause of the text cited, we set against this lust a different affection. viz. vanity, especially female vanity, regard to personal appearance. Hence that last clause might be better transposed to the end of this sentence).
ACTS XIII. 4, 5.—“So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also Jn to their minister.”
As soon as they were ordained they went forth, and hasted to Cyprus, that being a place where was no ill-design hatching against them, and where moreover the Word had been sown already. In Antioch there were (teachers) enough, and Phoenice too was near to Palestine; but Cyprus not so. However, you are not to make a question of the why and wherefore, when it is the Spirit that directs their movements: for they were not only ordained by the Spirit, but sent forth by Him likewise. “And when they were come to Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews.” Do you mark how they make a point of preaching the word to them first, not to make them more contentious?1 The persons mentioned before “spake to none but to Jews only” (ch. xi. 19), and so here they betook them to the synagogues. “And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-jesus: which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.” (v. 6–8). Again a Jew sorcerer, as was Simon. And observe this man, how, while they preached to the others, he did not take it much amiss, but only when they approached the proconsul. And then in respect of the proconsul the wonder is, that although prepossessed by the man’s sorcery, he was nevertheless willing to hear the Apostles. So it was with the Samaritans: and from the competition (sugkrisew") the victory appears, the sorcery being worsted. Everywhere, vainglory and love of power are a (fruitful) source of evils! “But Saul, who is also Paul,”—(v. 9) here his name is changed at the same time that he is ordained, as it was in Peter’s case,2 —“filled with the Holy Ghost, looked upon him, and said, O full of all guile and all villany, thou child of the devil:” (v. 10) and observe, this is not abuse, but accusation: for so ought forward, impudent people to be rebuked “thou enemy of all righteousness;” here he lays bare what was in the thoughts of the man, while under pretext of saving he was ruining the proconsul: “wilt thou not cease,” he says, “to pervert the ways of the Lord?” (He says it) both confidently (axiopistw"), It is not with us thou art warring, nor art thou fighting (with us), but “the ways of the Lord” thou art perverting, and with praise (of these, he adds) “the right” ways. “And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind.” (v. 11). It was the sign by which he was himself converted, and by this he would fain convert this man. As also that expression, “for a season,” puts it not as an act of punishing, but as meant for his conversion: had it been for punishment, he would have made him lastingly blind, but now it is not so, but “for a season” (and this), that he may gain the proconsul. For, as he was prepossessed by the sorcery, it was well to teach him a lesson by this infliction (and the sorcerer also), in the same way as the magicians (in Egypt) were taught by the boils.3 (Ex 9,11). “And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness: add he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand. Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.” (v. 12). But observe, how they do not linger there, as (they might have been tempted to do) now that the proconsul was a believer, nor are enervated by being courted and honored, but immediately keep on with their work, and set out for the country on the opposite coast. “Now when Paul and his company loosed froth Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem. But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.” (v. 13, 14). And here again they entered the synagogues, in the character of Jews, that they might not be treated as enemies, and be driven away: and in this way they carried the whole matter successfully. “And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.” (v. 15). From this point, we learn the history of Paul’s doings, as in what was said above we have learned not a little about Peter. But let us review what has been said.
(Recapitulation). “And when they were come to Salamis,” the metropolis of Cyprus, “they preached the word of God.” (v. 5). They had spent a year in Antioch: it behooved that they should go hither also (to Cyprus) and not sit permanently where they were (the converts in Cyprus): needed greater teachers. See too how they remain no time in Seleucia, knowing that (the people there) might have reaped much benefit from the neighboring city (of Antioch): but they hasten on to the more pressing duties. When they came to the metropolis of the island, they were earnest to disabuse (diorqwsai) the proconsul. But that it is no flattery that (the writer) says, “he was with the proconsul, a prudent man” (v. 7), you may learn from the facts; for he needed not many discourses, and himself wished to hear them. And4 he mentions also the names. * * * Observe, how he said nothing to the sorcerer, until he gave him an occasion: but they only “preached the word of the Lord.” Since (though Elymas) saw the rest attending to them, he looked only to this one object, that the proconsul might not be won over. Why did not (Paul) perform some other miracle? Because there was none equal to this, the taking the enemy captive. And observe, he first impeaches, and then punishes, him. He shows how justly the man deserved to suffer, by his saying, “O full of all deceit” (v. 10): (“ full of all,”) he says: nothing wanting to the full measure: and he well says, of all “deceit,” for the man was playing the part of a hypocrite.—“Child of the devil,” because he was doing his work: “enemy of all righteousness,” since this (which they preached) was the whole of righteousness (though at the same time): I suppose in these words he reproves his manner of life. His words were not prompted by anger, and to show this, the writer premises, “filled with the Holy Ghost,” that is, with His operation. “And now behold the hand of the Lord is upon thee.” (v. 11). It was not vengeance then, but healing: for it is as though he said: “It is not I that do it, but the hand of God.” Mc how unassuming! No “light,”5 as in the case of Paul, “shone round about him.” (ch. 9,3). “Thou shalt be blind,” he says, “not seeing the sun for a season,” that he may give him opportunity for repentance: for we nowhere find them wishing to be made conspicuous by the more stern (exercise of their authority), even though it was against enemies that this was put forth: in respect of those of their own body (they used severity), and with good reason, but in dealing with those without, not so; that (the obedience of faith) might not seem to be matter of compulsion and fear. It is a proof of his blindness, his “seeking some to lead him by the hand.” (ch. 5,1. ff). And6 the proconsul sees the blindness inflicted, “and when he saw what was done, he believed:” and both alone believed not merely this, but, “being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord” (v. 12): he saw that these things were not mere words, nor trickery. Mark how he loved to receive instruction from his teachers, though he was in a station of so high authority. And (Paul) said not to the sorcerer, “Wilt thou not cease to pervert” the proconsul?7 What may be the reason of John’s going back from them? For “John,” it says, “departing from them returned to Jerusalem” (v. 13): (he does it) because they are undertaking a still longer journey: and yet he was their attendant, and as for the danger, they incurred it (not he).—Again, when they were come to Perga, they hastily passed by the other cities, for they were in haste to the metropolis, Antioch. And observe how concise the historian is. “They sat down in the synagogue,” he says, and, “on the sabbath day” (v. 14, 15): that they might prepare the way beforehand for the Word. And they do not speak first, but when invited: since as strangers, they called upon them to do so. Had they not waited, there would have been no discourse. Here for the first time we have Paul preaching. And observe his prudence: where the word was already sown, he passes on: but where there was none (to preach), he makes a stay: as he himself writes: “Yea, so have I strived to preach the Gospel, not where Christ was named.” (Rm 15,20). Great courage this also. Truly, from the very outset, a wonderful man! crucified, ready for all encounters (paratetagmeno"), he knew how great grace he had obtained, and he brought to it zeal equivalent. He was not angry with John: for this was not for him:8 but he kept to the work, he quailed not, he was unappalled, when shut up in the midst of a host. Observe how wisely it is ordered that Paul should not preach at Jerusalem: the very hearing that he is become a believer, this of itself is enough for them; for him to preach, they never would have endured, such was their hatred of him: so he departs far away, where he was not known. But9 it is well done, that “they entered the synagogue on the sabbath day” when all were collected together. “And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word or exhortation for the people, say on.” (v. 15). Behold how they do this without grudging, but no longer after this. If ye did wish this (really), there was more need to exhort.
(He first convicted the sorcerer (and showed), what he was; and that he was such, the sign showed: “thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun” this was a sign of the blindness of his soul: “for a season” (v. 11): he says, to bring him to repentance. But, oh that love of rule! oh, that lust of vainglory! how it does overturn and ruin everything; makes people stand up against their own, against each other’s salvation; renders them blind indeed, and dark, insomuch that they have even to seek for some to lead them by the hand! Oh that they did even this, oh that they did seek were it but some to lead them by the hand! But no, they no longer endure this, they take the whole matter into their own hands. (This vice) will let no man see: like a mist and thick darkness it spreads itself over them, not letting any see through it. What pleas shall we have to offer, we who for one evil affection, overcome another evil affection (supra p. 176), but not for the fear of God! For example, many who are both lewd and covetous, have for their niggardliness put a bridle upon their lust, while other such, on the contrary, have for pleasure’s sake, despised riches. Again, those who are both the one and the other, have by the lust of vainglory overcome both, lavishing their money unsparingly, and practising temperance to no (good) purpose; others again, who are exceedingly vainglorious, have despised that evil affection, submitting to many vile disgraces for the sake of their amours, or for the sake of their money: others again, that they may satiate their anger, have chosen to suffer losses without end, and care for none of them, provided only they may work their own will. And yet, what passion can do with us, the fear of God is impotent to effect! Why speak I of passion? What shame before men can do with us, the fear of God has not the strength to effect! Many are the things we do right and wrong, from a feeling of shame before men; but God we fear not. How many have been shamed by regard to the opinions of men into flinging away money! How many have mistakenly made it a point of honor to give themselves up to the service of their friends (only), to their hurt! How many from respect for their friendships have been shamed into numberless wrong acts! Since then both passion and regard for the opinion of men are able to put us upon doing wrong things and right, it is idle to say, “we cannot:” we can, if we have the mind: and we ought to have the mind. Why canst not thou overcome the love of glory, when others do overcome it, having the same soul as thou, and the same body; bearing the same form, and living the same life? Think of God, think of the glory that is from above: weigh against that the things present, and thou wilt quickly recoil from this worldly glory. If at all events thou covet glory, covet that which is glory, indeed. What kind of glory is it, when it begets infamy? What kind of glory, when it compels one to desire the honor of those who are inferior, and stands in need of that? Real honor is the gaining the esteem of those who are greater than one’s self. If at all events thou art enamoured of glory, be thou rather enamoured of that which comes from God. If enamoured of that glory thou despisest this world’s glory, thou shall see how ignoble this is: but so long as thou seest not that glory, neither wilt thou be able to see this, how foul it is, how ridiculous. For as those who are under the spell of some wicked, hideously ugly woman, so long as they are in love with her, cannot see her ill-favoredness, because their passion spreads a darkness over their judgment: so is it here also: so long as we are possessed with the passion, we cannot perceive what a thing it is. How then might we be rid of it? Think of those who (for the sake of glory) have spent countless sums, and now are none the better for it:10 think of the dead, what glory they got, and (now) this glory is nowhere abiding, but all perished and come to naught: bethink thee how it is only a name, and has nothing real in it. For say, what is glory? give me some definition. “The being admired by all,” you will say. With justice, or also not with justice? For if it be not with justice, this is not admiration, but crimination (kathgoria), and flattery, and misrepresentation (diabolh). But if you say, With justice, why that is impossible: for in the populace there are no right judgments;those that minister to their lusts, those are the persons they admire. And if you would (see (the proof of this), mark those who give away their substance to the harlots, to the charioteers, to the dancers. But you will say, we do not mean these, but those who are just and upright, and able to do great and noble good acts. Would that they wished it, and they soon would do good: but as things are, they do nothing of the kind. Who, I ask you, now praises the just and upright man? Nay, it is just the contrary. Could anything be more preposterous than for a just man, when doing any such good act, to seek glory of the many—as if an artist of consummate skill, employed upon an Emperor’s portrait, should wish to have the praises of the ignorant! Moreover, a man who looks for honor from men, will soon enough desist from the acts which virtue enjoins. If he will needs be gaping for their praises, he will do just what they wish, not what himself wishes. What then would I advise you? You must look only to God, to the praise that is from Him, perform all things which are pleasing to Him, and go after the good things (that are with Him), not be gaping for anything that is of man: for this mars both fasting and prayer and alms-giving, and makes all our good deeds void. Which that it be not our case, let us flee this passion. To one thing alone let us look, to the praise which is from God, to the being accepted of Him, to the commendation from our common Master; that, having passed through our present life virtuously, we may obtain the promised blessings together with them that love Him, through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, might, honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen).
1 That Barnabas and Saul preached first to the Jews for the reason mentioned by Chrysostom is wholly improbable. The mission to the Gentiles entrusted to them never cancelled, in their minds, their obligation to the Jews as having in the plan of God an economic precedence. Paul not only maintained throughout his life an ardent love and longing for his people (Rm 9). and a confident hope of their conversion (Rm 11)., but regarded them as still the people of privilege, on the principle: “To the Jew first, and also to the Greek?” (Rm 1,16). This view, together with the fact that they were Jews, constitutes a sufficient explanation for their resort to the synagogues. Additional reasons may be found in the fact that in the synagogues might be found those who were religiously inclined—of both Jewish and Gentile nationality—and who were therefore most susceptible to the influence of Christian truth, and in the fact that the freedom of speech in the synagogue-service offered the most favorable opportunity to expound the Gospel.—G. B. S.
2 Chrysostom here hints at the most probable explanation of the change of name in the Ac from Saul to Paul, although that change is not strictly simultaneous with his ordination which occurred at Antioch (v. 3), whereas the first use of the name “Paul” is in connection with his labors at Paphos, after he had preached for a time in Salamis. It seems probable that, as in so many cases, Paul, a Hellenist, had two names, in Hebrew Saul, and in Greek Paul, and that now when he enters distinctively upon his mission to the Gentiles, his Gentile name comes into exclusive use. (So, among recent critics, De Wette, Lechler, Alford, Neander, Gloag). Other opinions are: (1) that he took the name Paul—signifying little—out of modesty (Augustin); (2) that he was named Paul, either by himself (Jerome), by his fellow-Christians (Meyer) or by the proconsul (Ewald), in honor of the conversion of Sergius Paulus.—G. B. S).
3 It can hardly be meant that the smiting of Elymas with blindness was not a judicial infliction to himself; but that the proconsul should see it rather on its merciful side as being only acri kairou. The Hebraistic use of Ceir Kuriou clearly implies a divine judgment upon Elymas as does the whole force of the narrative.—G. B. S.
4 Kai ta onomata de legei: epeidh prosfatw" egrafon: ora k. t. l. A). b.c. N. Cat. It is not clear whether this relates to the two names, Barjesus and Elymas, (if so we might, read egrafen, “since he wrote just before, (whose name was Barjesus, but now Elymas, for so is his name interpreted,”) or to the change of the Apostle’s name “Then Saul, who is also called Paul,” (and then perhaps the sense of the latter clause may be, Since the change of name was recent: epeidh prosfatw" metegrafh or the like). The mod. text substitutes, “But he also recites the names of the cities: showing that since they had but recently received the word, there was need (for them) to be confirmed, to continue in the faith: for which reason also they frequently visited them.”
5 Mod. text omits this sentence. The connection is: Paul inflicts this blindness upon him, not in vengeance, but in order to his conversion, remembering how the Lord Himself had dealt with him on the way to Damascus. But it was not here, as then—no “light shown round about him from heaven.”
6 Kai (Eita mod). (ora C. N. Cat)). thn phrwsin (Cat). purwsin) o anq. kai (om. Cat)). mono" episteusen (mod). euqu" pisteuei). The reading in Cat. is meant for emendation: “And mark the fervor (or kindling, viz. of the proconsul’s mind): the proc. alone believed” etc.
7 Mod. text adds, “but, the ways of the Lord, which is more: that he may not seem to pay court.”
8 ou gar toutou hn. “Down. renders it non enim iroe deditus erat, he was not the man for this (anger): or perhaps, For he (John) was not his, not associated by him, but by Barnabas.” Ben. But the meaning should rather be, “So great a work was not for him (Mark); he was not equal to it.” The connection is of this kind: “Paul knew how great grace had been bestowed on him, and on his own part he brought corresponding zeal. When Mc withdrew, Paul was not angry with him, knowing that the like grace was not bestowed on him, therefore neither could there be the like spoudh on his part.”
9 In mss. and Edd. this portion, to the end of the paragraph, is placed after the part relating to Elymas, “He first convicted,” etc. and immediately before the Morale, as if the occasion of the invective against filarcia and kenodoxia were furnished by the conduct of the rulers of the synagogue: but see above, p). 178, in the expos. of 5,8, pantacou h kenodoxia kai h filarcia aitiai twn kakwn, and below, the allusion to the blindness of Elymas).
10 kai ouden ap auth" karpoumenou", i.e. reaping no fruit from it (the glory which they sought here) where they are now. Mod. text ouden ap antwn karpwsamenou": “reaped no fruit while here, from their money which they squandered”—mistaking the meaning of the passage, which is, “They got what they sought, but where is at now?”
Chrysostom on Acts 2700