The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Acts 21

Act 21:4

WE STAYED WITH THEM SEVEN DAYS: So as to attend a breaking of bread?

THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT THEY URGED PAUL NOT TO GO ON TO JERUSALEM: The Holy Spirit did not COMMAND Paul not to go. Instead, God (through the Holy Spirit) was telling Paul what to expect. Thus Paul's friends, acting on this information, sought to dissuade him. In fact, the Holy Spirit COMPELLED him to go (Acts 19:21; 20:22). (This is finally interpreted as God's will: v 14.)

Act 21:9

FOUR UNMARRIED DAUGHTERS WHO PROPHESIED: Dedicated to a single life (1Co 7:32)?

Act 21:10

AGABUS: Sig "locust": the insect of famine: previously he had prophesied of a great famine throughout the empire (Act 11:28).

Act 21:11

Cp enacted parables of Isa 20:2; Jer 13:1; Eze 5:1. Cp Christ's words re Peter in John 21:18. Fulfilled at Caesarea (Acts 26:29).

WILL HAND HIM OVER TO THE GENTILES: Cp Christ in Luk 9:44; 24:7.

Act 21:13

BUT ALSO TO DIE IN JERUSALEM: "Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea" (Rom 15:30-32).

Act 21:17

Paul's visit to Jerusalem marked a fundamental turning point in his life. Up to this time he was free to go where he pleased preaching the gospel. During the time up to this visit to Jerusalem, Paul had been actively involved in the formation of a number of ecclesias. From this time, however, he is never a free man again. He is a prisoner of Rome -- though he viewed himself as a "prisoner of Christ" (Eph 3:1; Phm 1:1); it was during this long imprisonment that Paul wrote most of his letters.

We can be useful in the service of the Master whatever our circumstances, though we may need to modify what we think we should be doing because of our circumstances.

WHEN WE ARRIVED AT JERUSALEM: Bringing the gifts to the poor (Acts 24:17).

Act 21:18

JAMES: This is the last ref in the Bible to James the brother of Jesus.

An ossuary reportedly from the first century bears the inscription, "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" (CNN, 10/21/02). A limestone burial box, almost 2,000 years old, may provide the oldest archeological record of Jesus of Nazareth, according to several experts. (Previously, the earliest known mention of Jesus was in a papyrus containing a fragment of John's Gospel, written in Greek, and dated to AD 125.) The ossuary, as the bone boxes are known, dates to AD 63 and has an inscription in Aramaic, said Andre Lemaire, an expert in ancient writing who identified the writing on the box in Jerusalem last spring. At the time of Jesus' life, Aramaic was the common language of the Jews. Hebrew was the language of government, religion and the upper classes.

Writing about his findings in the new issue of BAR, Lemaire, who teaches at the Sorbonne in Paris, called it "very probable" that the box belonged to Jesus' brother James, who by Christian tradition was the leader of the early church in Jerusalem.

While most scholars agree that Jesus existed, no physical evidence from the first century has ever been conclusively tied with his life.

Two scientists from the Israeli government's geological survey tested the box last month, inspecting the surface patina and inscription under a microscope. They concurred that the object is more than 19 centuries old, the archaeology magazine reported.

"It's hard to avoid the conclusion that these three names refer to the personages so identified in the NT," said Hershel Shanks, editor of BAR.

Many of the conclusions reached by experts relied on the inscription written on the ossuary. The boxes commonly were used by Jewish families between 20 BC and AD 70 to store the bones of their loved ones. Lemaire said out of hundreds of such boxes found with Aramaic writing only two contain mentions of a brother. From this, scholars infer that the brother was noted only when he was someone important. The inscription reads, "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus," according to scholars. But it is unlikely there would have been more than one James who had a brother of such importance that it merited having him mentioned on his ossuary, Lemaire said.

Act 21:19

WHAT GOD HAD DONE AMONG THE GENTILES THROUGH HIS MINISTRY: Since he had last "greeted the ecclesia" at Jerusalem (Act 18:22), Paul had (1) consolidated his labors in Galatia and Phrygia; (2) established a flourishing center for the Truth in Ephesus; (3) strengthened the brethren in Asia, Macedonia, and Achaia; (4) vigorously corrected heresy and wrong conduct; (5) taken up alms for Jewish brethren; and (6) helped the ecclesias at Miletus, Tyre, Acre, and Caesarea -- all in the face of bitter opposition and violence!

Act 21:21

THEY HAVE BEEN INFORMED: Gr "katacheo" = to be systematically instructed, ie as by a catechism. "Indoctrinated": sw Luk 1:4; Act 18:25; 21:21,24; Rom 2:18; Gal 6:6.

Act 21:24

JOIN IN THEIR PURIFICATION RITES: Apparently, Paul submitted himself to a Nazarite vow of 7 days duration (v 26).

AND PAY THEIR EXPENSES: It was customary that a wealthy Jew become the sponsor of poor brethren when the time came to offer sacrifices at the completion of a vow (Josephus in SB 14:69). Paul was able to do this, using a part of the gift provided by the Gentile brethren. (See Num 6:13-21; cp Temple 370). James the brother of Jesus was supposed to have been a Nazarite-for-life (Eusebius 2:23:3).

Act 21:26

The last 7 days of this vow were spent in the precincts of the Temple.

Act 21:27

Vv 27,28: The sharp distinction between Jew and Gentile in matters of worship was based upon the law given through Moses. In the temple at Jerusalem there was an area which was strictly 'out of bounds' to all but Jews, and one of the accusations made against the Apostle Paul was that he had brought Greeks into the temple. The Bible record is illustrated by a white limestone notice found in Jerusalem, and dating from about 30 AD. The inscription reads: "Whoever is caught doing so (ie entering the forbidden area) will have himself to blame that his death ensues." This find gives point to the Apostle's teaching that "in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us" (Eph 2:13,14). That is, in Christ the barrier that separates Jew and Gentile has been removed -- "For ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28).

THEY STIRRED UP THE WHOLE CROWD: Probably a planned "riot"!

Act 21:28

Cp the charges in Act 6:11-14, when Paul was on the other side!

AGAINST... OUR LAW: But THEY were preventing him from keeping the Law!

HE HAS BROUGHT GREEKS INTO THE TEMPLE: In a figurative and spiritual sense, this is exactly what Paul was doing: Eph 2:14!

Act 21:30

THEY DRAGGED HIM FROM THE TEMPLE: The only concern of the Levitical guard was to avoid defilement.

AND IMMEDIATELY THE GATES WERE SHUT: So Paul, like Christ, suffered "outside the camp" (Heb 13:12).

Act 21:32

AND RAN DOWN TO THE CROWD: This confirms details of the layout of the Temple Mount and the Antonia Fortress. The fortress was at the northern end of Temple Mount, elevated up on a rock escarpment. From the castle the largest part of Temple Mount could be observed. Steps ran down to the paved area. It is these steps which the soldiers ran down and upon which Paul spoke to the people (v 37).

Act 21:33

BOUND WITH TWO CHAINS: And prob held betw two soldiers.

Act 21:35

THE VIOLENCE OF THE MOB WAS SO GREAT HE HAD TO BE CARRIED BY THE SOLDIERS: Paul was knocked from his feet by the crowd, and then dragged up the steps by the two soldiers.

Act 21:36

The crowd was insistently pressing at him, trying to lay hands on him.

Act 21:38

TERRORISTS: Gr "sikarios": lit, dagger-men; Zealots, revolutionaries.

Act 21:40

HAVING RECEIVED THE COMMANDER'S PERMISSION...: Why would the commander allow a prisoner to speak? "The Roman commander may well have been impressed by Paul's courteous composure under such trying circumstances. He may also have thought that by letting him speak, he might gain some insight into the cause of the riot. As for the crowd, they may also have been momentarily impressed by Paul's composure and their attentiveness encouraged by gestures of the commander and his soldiers for them to be quiet. Moreover, Paul's use of Aramaic (the lingua franca of Palestine) -- though probably frustrating for the commander -- would have been appreciated by the crowd and elicited for him a temporary measure of good will" (EBC).

ARAMAIC: "Hebrew" in KJV, but that would be understood only very imperfectly by many Jews.

"Paul spoke to the crowd in Aramaic (lit 'in the Hebrew dialect,' which throughout the NT means 'in Aramaic,' except at Rev 9:11; 16:16)" (EBC).

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