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ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
The first great movement, from Jerusalem to Antioch, having been recorded in the previous twelve chapters, the historian now enters on the second, beginning at Antioch and ending at Rome, in which the field of operations is the Gentile world, and the principal agent the Apostle Paul (xuiXxviii.) The first and largest portion of this narrative is occupied with the Apostle's active ministry, or his official labours while at liberty (xm-xxi.) The historical account of these commences with his first foreign mission, that to Cyprus and certain parts of Asia Minor (xi, xiv.) The division of the text now immediately before us contains the first part of this mission, from its inception in the church at Antioch to the arrival of the missionaries at Iconium (xm.)
We are first told how Barnabas and Saul were designated to the missionary work (1-3). They then sail from Syria to Cyprus (4.) They visit Salamis and Paphos in that island (5, 6.) A sorcerer resists them and is struck with blindness (6-11.) The Roman Proconsul is converted (12.) Saul, henceforth called Paul, as Apostle of the Gentiles, conducts the mission into Asia Minor, landing at Perga in Pam. YOU u. A
phylia, where their attendant, John Mark, leaves them (13.) They proceed to Antioch in Pisidia, and attend the synagogue (14, 15.) Paul preaches his first sermon upon record (16-41.) It produces a powerful effect upon the people (4244.) The unbelieving Jews make violent opposition (45.) Paul avows his mission to the Gentiles (46, 47.) Many Gentiles are converted (48, 49.) The Jews excite a persecution (50.) Paul departs to Iconium, leaving the new converts in a happy state (51, 52.)
1. 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 Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
At Antioch in the being (or existing) church. The participle (being) is emphatic, and has been variously explained, as meaning the real or true church, in opposition to the false Judaic one; or the church as it then was, in its actual condition, still requiring inspired teachers, until uninspired ones could be provided; or the church now really existing, and so well established that it could spare labourers to go abroad. All these interpretations supply something not expressed or necessarily suggested by the text or context. The only natural construction is the one adopted in our version, which supposes being to denote nothing more than the existence of a church there, or the fact that Antioch had not only heard the Gospel and invented the name Christian (see above, on 11, 26), but was now the seat of a regularly organized church, with a full and efficient corps of ministers. 'There were at Antioch in the church which now existed there.' The powers of this church were exercised, according to the apostolical principle and practice, through divinely constituted officers, here described as Prophets and Teachers (see above, on 2, 18), i. e. either inspired teachers, as a single class, or inspired and uninspired teachers, as distinct classes. Or, still more probably than either, the two words are generic and specific terms, applied to the same persons, one denoting their divine authority, the other the precise way in which it was exercised. Other distinctions which have been assumed, such as that between itinerant and settled ministers, or occasional and stated preachers, or exhorters and instructors, are possible enough, but not susceptible of proof. As may seem to imply that there were others not here mentioned; but the Greek word (re) simply means both, i. e. not only Barnabas, but those who follow. (See the very same form in 1,13 above.) Barnabas is probably named first, as the oldest man and oldest minister, or as the one who had been sent down from Jerusalem (see above, on 11, 22), or perhaps as being really the pastor or presiding elder of the church at Antioch. Simeon (or Simon), a very common Hebrew name (see above, on 1, 13. 8, 9. 9, 43. 10, 6), here distinguished by the Roman surname Niger (Black), which has led some to identify the person here meant with Simon the Cyrenian, who bore our Saviour's cross (Matt. 27, 32. Mark 15, 21. Luke 23, 26.) Lucius is expressly described as a Cyrenian, and may be the same whom Paul salutes (Rom. 16, 21) among his kinsmen, either in the wide or narrow sense. (See above, on 10, 24.) That this was Luke himself, is an ancient but improbable conjecture. Manaen is a Hellenistic form of the Hebrew Mena/ietn (2 Kings 15, 14.) Which had been brought up with Herod is more concisely and exactly rendered in the margin, Herod's foster-brother. The tetrarch, i. e. Herod Antipas, the one so often mentioned in the Life of Christ. Josephus and the Talmud speak of a Menahem, an Essene, who predicted the elevation and long reign of Herod the Great, "and was therefore an object of his special favour. It is very possible that this man's son was nursed or educated with the king's sons, and afterwards converted to the Christian faith. (For another follower of Christ connected with the court of Herod, see Luke 8, 3.) As the same Greek particle (tc) is repeated with this name, although here translated simply and, some suppose a distinction to be thereby made between the first three as prophets and the last two as mere teachers. But who can suppose Saul to have been less a prophet than Barnabas? (Compare 1 Cor. 14, 1-5.) The place assigned to Saul in this list has been variously explained; but the most satisfactory solution is, that his apostolical commission had not yet been made known, and that until its disclosure, he was to remain undistinguished from his fellow-labourers, or even to take the lowest place among them, as on this occasion. (See below, on vs. 9. 13.) The word certain (nvs) in the first clause is omitted by the oldest manuscripts and latest critics.