Bible Query from
Q: In Acts 1:1 and Lk 1:3, was Theophilus a real person?
A: There are three possibilities, and I favor the third view.
No: The Greek word Theophilus means lover of God, and many see this as a generic invitation to lovers of God in general.
Yes: However, Theophilus was a known Greek name, and some, such as the Nelson Study Bible p.1685 say Theophilus was an individual believer. Likewise The NIV Study Bible p.1532 says Theophilus "almost certainly refers to a specific person rather than lovers of God in general."
Deliberately ambiguous: A third view is that this ambiguity is deliberate, either on Lukeís part or else on Godís part.
Theophilus was the name of a number of people:
1) An ancient Greek geographer mentioned by Plutarch, Ptolemy, and Josephus
2) An Indo-Greek king either 130 B.C. or 90 B.C., a bishop of Antioch (168-181/188 A.D.)
3) A Theophilus of Caesarea (c.170-180 A.D.)
4) The Arian Theophilus the Indian (died 364 A.D.)
5) A patriarch of Alexandria somewhere around 391 A.D.
6) The writer of the Martyrdom of Habib the Deacon, which occurred in 315 A.D.
While it can be frustrating to some western readers to no eliminate all ambiguity, in some cultures ambiguity can be intentional.
Q: In Acts 1:3, was Jesus on earth for forty days after His resurrection, or less than five days as Lk 24:50-52 supposedly implies?
A: Jesus was on earth after His resurrection for forty days as Luke tells us in Acts 1:3. In contrast, Luke tells us in Luke 24:50 of the last five days, but the Gospel of Luke does not specify the number of days before Jesus led them to Bethany and ascended to Heaven.
Q: In Acts 1:8, did the apostles know in advance what would happen when the Holy Spirit would come upon them?
A: Scripture does not say, but there is no indication they did. Many times when we follow God, God does not always tell us in advance the blessings He has for us.
Q: In Acts 1:8 (NIV) should it be "in Jerusalem" or "both in Jerusalem"
A: The Greek manuscripts all have both (te in Greek), but some English translations removed the word; apparently to improve clarity. The NIV, NRSV, NKJV, and Holman do not have both.
The KJV, Wuest Expanded Translation, uNASB, and Jay P. Greenís Literal translation have "both".
The NET Bible does not have "both" but has "and" after Jerusalem.
Q: In Acts 1:10, who were the men dressed in white?
A: They were angels. Luke called them men because they appeared like human beings.
Q: Does Acts 1:11 show how Jesus will return?
A: Yes. Jesus will bodily return in the clouds, just as He bodily ascended into the clouds.
The early Christian writer Irenaeus (182-188 A.D.) after quoting 1 John 5:1 says, "knowing Jesus Christ to be one and the same, to whom the gates of heaven were opened, because of His taking upon him flesh; who shall also come in the same flesh in which he suffered, revealing the glory of the Father." Irenaeus Against Heresies book 3 ch.16:8 p.443
See also When Cultists Ask p.194 and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.354 for more info.
Q: In Acts 1:12, what is a Sabbathís journey?
A: This colloquial term was the distance the Pharisees decided a person could travel on the Sabbath without doing work. The Expositorís Bible Commentary vol.9 p.260 says the Mishnah teaches that it was 2,000 cubits, which would be 1.11 km or 1,200 yards or 2/3 of a mile.
Q: Does Acts 1:12 show we should not travel farther than this on the Sabbath?
A: No. The fact that a "Sabbathís journey" was a common term and was used here, does not mean we have to follow the traditions of the Pharisees.
Q: In Acts 1:12, why did the disciples go to the Mount of Olives, since in Acts 1:4 they were told not to leave Jerusalem?
A: The Mount of Olives was less than a mile from the walls of Jerusalem proper. It was still within the area of greater Jerusalem, just as a suburb bordering a city is still considered a part of the city environment.
Q: In Acts 1:12, did Jesus ascend to heaven from the Mount of Olives, or did He ascend to heaven from Bethany as Lk 24:50 says?
A: Both, because Bethany was on the slope of the Mount of Olives. Bethany was closer to Jerusalem than the distance a Jew was permitted to walk on the Sabbath, and the Mount of Olives was in between Bethany and Jerusalem.
Q: In Acts 1:17, why would God have Judas Iscariot be a part of the ministry prior to Judas betraying Jesus?
A: Judasí treachery was a part of Godís plan according to Acts 2:23. Judas is just one example in the Bible of unworthy people who act as leaders of Godís flock but are in fact spiritual wolves. It happened back then in Acts 20:29-31, and it happens today sometimes.
However, God was not surprised at that; in fact God wove even Judasí treachery in as a part of His plan. See 1001 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.404 for more info.
Q: In Acts 1:17 and Mt 27:3-10, exactly how did Judas die?
A: See the discussion on Matthew 27:5 for the answer.
Q: In Acts 1:17, does the Bible talk about suicide? if a person would go to heaven or hell if a person committed suicide? ...I do not have a gun to my head. I am just wondering. its one of those questions that no one has ever brought up at a Bible study. I think its cause people are too afraid to ask.
A: On both suicide and other sins, the Bible does not specify how God judges a person. Suicide is a form of murder, and from the ten commandments we are not supposed to murder. The Bible has a couple of examples of evil people committing suicide: King Saul and Judas.
Some people think that if you accept Christ, you could lose your salvation if you commit any sin and never repent. A person who commits suicide, depending on the means, may not have time to repent before they die.
However, this reasoning is false: while Christians are supposed to repent of all their sins, we are saved by Godís grace through faith; not on the basis of our repenting from every sin. I am sure every Christian who dies has not explicitly repented of some sin, because they either forgot about it or were not aware it was a sin. But our salvation is a gift from God to all who accept.
In the early church there was an example of a beautiful, godly Christian mother and her two daughters, who were caught by Roman soldiers. The mother talked to her daughters, and before they were raped, they asked to go to the side of the road by a river [presumably to use the restroom]. Then they threw themselves in the river and drowned. Eusebiusí Ecclesiastical History book 8 ch.12 p.332-333 mentions these among the "admirable martyrs of Christ". However, this was a sin, because you are not supposed to murder. Among early Christian writers, Lactantius (c.303-c.325 A.D.) taught that suicide is wrong in The Divine Institutes book 3 ch.18 p.89. Augustine of Hippo also taught that suicide, even to escape rape, is wrong.
Q: In Acts 1:20, how do these quotes from Ps 69:25 and Ps 109:8 relate to Jesus?
A: Psalm 69:21 also relates to Jesus. There are three points to consider in the answer.
1. These three verses do not say explicitly that they refer to the future Messiah.
2. Nor is there any reason we should interpret these verses to not be applicable to anyone except Jesus and Judas.
3. However, the kind of situation Jesus was in, fits very closely to the types of situations that these Psalms reference.
Q: In Acts 1:20, why did Peter say "his place", since Ps 69:25 says "their place"?
A: Peter did not recite from memory Psalm 69:25 word-for-word, and the book of Acts is telling us (without error) what Peter actually recited. There are two views of the significance of this.
First view: The choice of Matthias as the twelfth apostle was a mistake, since Matthias is not heard of after this, and Paul became an apostle. Peterís decision to choose a twelfth apostle by lot was based on Peterís faulty recollection of Psalm 69:25. Thus, while Peter was trying to obey Godís word, even Peter could make mistakes too. That is OK though, because God still works through imperfect people.
Second view: Peterís paraphrase was a proper application, because the Psalm spoke of the enemies of the Messiah, and Judas was certainly one of those.
Q: In Acts 1:21-26, how many Apostles were there biblically? I am pretty sure that Barnabas was acknowledged as one in the book of Acts. And that James the brother of Jesus was also an Apostle found elsewhere in the Scriptures. Also, Was Apollos an Apostle?
A: The word "apostle" has multiple meanings. The word can generally mean "ambassador", and Barnabas and James the Lordís brother were apostles in that sense. While Barnabas was called an apostle in Acts 4:36; 14:14; James and Apollos were not called apostles in the Bible per se, though they had important roles in the church.
To distinguish from these, there was another, more restricted group, called "The twelve", which brings up an interesting point. Since eleven disciples of Jesus became apostles, what about the twelfth? Peter saw a need for the twelfth, they cast lots between Joseph and Matthias, and Matthias won (Acts 1:21-26). When casting lots, it is doubtful there was a third choice "donít pick yet". Yet we hear nothing more about Matthias. Later Paul became the twelfth apostle, and was recognized by the others (Gal 2:8-10; 2 Pet 3:15-16). It is almost as if God just ignored their casting lots because His pick of Paul would come later.
Q: In Acts 1:22-26, when they chose Matthias by lot to take Judasí place, was this what God wanted?
A: Scripture does not record either approval or disapproval of this decision. However, many Christians think this is not what God wanted, for three reasons.
1. God only recognized twelve as apostles in Revelation 21:14.
2. Paul was mentioned as an apostle in 1 Timothy 1:1; 2:7; Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1; and Titus 1:1.
3. Matthias was never heard of again in the Bible.
When sincere believers are serving God wholeheartedly, they will still make mistakes. However, God is great enough to make allowances for our mistakes. See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.512-514 and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.356-357 for more info.
F.F. Bruce takes the view that this was proper. See The New International Commentary : Acts p.47-48 for his view. F.F. Bruce also points out that they did not replace Judas because he died. Rather, they replaced Judas because he deserted his place. They did not practice literal "apostolic succession" as when James was martyred in Acts 12:2, they did not think to replace him. Tertullian (198-220 A.D.) in his On Prescription Against Heretics ch.20 p.252 also believes the choice of Matthias was proper.
Q: In Acts 1:23, what does "Barsabbas" mean?
A: It literally means "son of the Sabbath". Perhaps Joseph Barsabbas was born on the Sabbath.
Q: In Acts 2:1, how many days was it between the ascension of Jesus and Pentecost?
A: Since Jesus went up into Heaven about 40 days after the resurrection (Acts 1:3), and Pentecost was 50 days after the Passover, so it was about 10 days.
Q: In Acts 2:3 who had the tongues of fire?
A: While scripture does not explicitly say it was limited to the apostles, it probably was. We cannot tell if Matthias had a tongue of fire or not.
Q: In Acts 2:4, why did God delay sending the Holy Spirit until Pentecost?
A: Scripture does not say why there was a fifty-day delay from the Passover. However, two reasons are readily apparent.
Perhaps the ascension had to occur first: Jesus appeared frequently to His disciples before ascending to Heaven. He had to finish teaching them, and give the commission found in Acts 1:7-8 prior to ascending to Heaven. His ascending to Heaven was prior to the Holy Spirit coming upon them.
Followed the feasts: God instituted the Jewish feasts in the Old Testament. Jesusí life paralleled the feasts, and it would only be fitting that the Holy Spirit should come on the Feast of Pentecost.
See Todayís Handbook for Solving Bible Difficulties p.359-360 for more info.
Q: In Acts 2:4, how did everyone understand the tongues, since 1 Cor 14:27-28 says there should be no tongues in the church without interpretation?
A: The reaction of the crowd shows that the apostles were not speaking in unknown tongues, but in tongues unknown to the speakers but known to the listeners. Thus no interpreters were needed.
As for the idea that they were disobeying 1 Corinthians 14:27-28, remember that
a) The listeners could interpret for themselves
b) This was not in a church
c) 1 Corinthians 14:27-28 was not written yet.
Though Muslims are not Christians, they should have no trouble accepting this account. One of the most pre-eminent early Muslim historians, al-Tabari, also states that Jesusí disciples could miraculously speak the language of the people to whom they were sent. (al-Tabariís History vol.8 p.99)
See Todayís Handbook for Solving Bible Difficulties p.357-359 for more info.
Q: In Acts 2:4, does the Holy Spirit filling people prove the Holy Spirit cannot be a person, as Jehovahís Witnesses teach?
A: No. If that logic were valid, then since God fills the Heavens and the earth as Jeremiah 23:24 says, then God would not be a personal god. The fact that the Holy Spirit can do things we cannot do, and the fact that God is infinite, do not restrict Him from also being an intelligent being with thoughts and feelings. As When Cultists Ask p.194-195 points out, Ephesians 4:30 says Christ fills all things, so by the same faulty logic, is Christ not a person either?
While the previous paragraph shows that nothing restricts the Holy Spirit from being a person, the following list shows that the Holy Spirit has the attributes of a person. By person we do not mean a human being, but an intelligent, personal being.
Parakletos (the comforter, the one along side us)
Speaks to us (John 14:16,26; John 15:26; Acts 13:2; Hebrews 3:7)
Reminds us (John 14:26)
Like a parent, so we will not be orphans (orphanos in Greek) (John 14:18)
Guides us (John 16:13)
Teaches us (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:13)
Lives in us (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Timothy 1:14; Romans 8:9,11, Ephesians 2:22)
In our hearts (2 Corinthians 1:22; Galatians 4:6)
We live by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16,25)
Led by the Spirit (Galatians 5:18; Romans 8:9)
He intercedes for us (Romans 8:26-27)
Can be insulted (Hebrews 10:29)
Testifies of Christ (John 15:26)
Has a mind (Romans 8:27)
Can be grieved (Isaiah 63:10; Ephesians 4:30)
Chooses who to give gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11)
Possesses love (Romans 15:30)
Can think things are good (Acts 15:28)
Searches deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)
God in us (1 John 4:12-13,15-16; Romans 8:9-10; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19; John 14:23, 15:4)
With us always (Matthew 28:20)
Groans, and thus cares, for us (Romans 8:26)
Gives joy (1 Thessalonians 1:6)
See Haleyís Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible p.139-141 for an extensive discussion.
Q: In Acts 2:4, does this prove speaking in tongues was a normal experience for future Christians?
A: The experience of the twelve apostles in Acts 2:4 neither proves nor disproves this, unless you think flames of fire is a normal Christian experience too. Speaking in tongues was not done before this, because the apostles were not filled with the Holy Spirit prior to Pentecost. For other people who spoke in tongues after this, there is no mention of tongues of fire.
Q: In Acts 2:6-11, as most people at that time spoke either Greek or Aramaic, did the apostles speak to everyone in their own tongue by just speaking these two languages, which would not be miraculous, as Asimovís Guide to the Bible p.1002 suggests?
A: Many people in Palestine spoke both Greek and Aramaic. Asimovís explanation of this as them speaking two languages does not make any sense for at least five reasons.
1. "a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed,..." (Acts 2:6-7 NIV) How many people today are utterly amazed at learning that a stranger is bilingual?
2. "amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ĎWhat does this mean?í (Acts 2:12 NIV).
3. Others said Ď...They have had too much wine." (Acts 2:13)
4. Acts 2:8 says that people of fifteen ethnic groups heard the Gospel in their own language. It would not make sense to list fifteen groups if only two languages were spoken.
5. Finally, it is unlikely all the Parthians and Arabs spoke either Greek or Aramaic.
Q: In Acts 2:7, how could they tell that the apostles were Galileans?
A: The crowd could tell by their accent. According to The Expositorís Bible Commentary vol.9 p.272 there were two main things. People tended to drop syllables oíer in Galilee. Galileans also had difficulty pronouncing gutturals (as do English speakers). Gutturals are almost absent in English, except perhaps for the word "loch". They are most similar to h, g, k, and German rís. They are prominent in German, Hebrew, Arabic, as my friend Ahkmed would know. For example, two Arab words, kalb, and qalb, mean "dog" and "heart". I have heard that Arabs loved to hear foreign missionaries, speaking in Arabic, telling people to give God their heart.
Q: In Acts 2:15 why did the Jews think it was wrong to have drunk wine at this time?
A: While drinking wine in moderation was practiced, The New Geneva Study Bible p.1713 says that on feast days it was customary to fast until at least the fourth hour. A person is a serious alcoholic if they need wine to get up in the morning.
Q: In Acts 2:16-21, was this prophecy of Joel 2:28-29 fulfilled here, or will it be fulfilled in the Second Coming of Christ?
A: It is to be fulfilled at every coming of Christ. It was fulfilled at Jesusí crucifixion when the sun turned dark in the afternoon in Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33, and Luke 23:44-45. Peter mentioned this in Acts 2:16-21.
It also will turn dark before the second coming of Jesus in Revelation 6:12-14; 8:12; 9:2; 16:10. See also the next question.
Q: In Acts 2:16-21, since this fulfilled the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32, how come the moon did not turn to blood?
A: The moon turning to blood simply means that the moon appears with a red color. The sun was darkened for three hours during Jesusí crucifixion according to Luke 23:44-45. A non-Christian Palestinian historian named Thales (also spelled Thallus), wrote in 52 A.D., that darkness accompanied the crucifixion of Jesus. A Carian Greek writer named Phlegon also wrote that in the 202nd Olympiad (33 A.D.) there was an eclipse of the sun.
There are two views on Acts 2:16-21:
Totally fulfilled: Since the moon often shows itself during the day, when the sun was darkened, the moon likely would be darkened, or reddened too.
Partially fulfilled: The prophecy in Joel 2:28-32 had a number of parts. The pouring out of the Spirit did not happen until fifty days later at Pentecost. The moon was apparently not darkened here, but it will be darkened at the Second Coming of Christ. The sun was darkened both at the crucifixion and at the Second Coming. See The Complete Book of Bible Answers p.90 for more on how this prophecy was only partially fulfilled.
See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.377 and When Critics Ask p.427 for more info.
Q: In Acts 2:25-26 and 4:25-28, how do Ps 16:8-11 and Ps 2 relate to Jesus and the early Christians?
A: These relate primarily to Jesus. Because Jesus has given us His life, they also relate secondarily to us.
In Psalm 16:8-11, the body of Jesus never saw decay, and Jesus will have eternal pleasure in Heaven. Our earthly bodies will decay. However, we will later receive glorified bodies, and for us too, those bodies will never see decay, and we will have eternal pleasure in Heaven.
In Psalm 2, Jesus will sit on his throne and rule the earth. Ephesians 2:6 says that we will sit with Christ on His throne (not our own), and reign with Him.
Combining two verses with the same words in them was the "second midrashic rule" attributed to the famous Jewish rabbi Hillel according to The Expositorís Bible Commentary vol.9 p.279.
Q: In Acts 2:34, did David go to Heaven, or not?
A: Eventually, yes. Two points to consider in the answer.
1. At the time David penned the quoted passage, David was still living on the earth.
2. Today Davidís soul is in Heaven. However, his body is not in Heaven, as Acts 2:29 says.
See When Critics Ask p.427-428 and Haleyís Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible p.198-199 for more info.
Q: In Acts 2:36 the skeptic Bart Ehrman claims that Peter showed that Jesus received his exalted status at the resurrection (Jesus, Interrupted p.95).
A: Ehrman is half-right and half-wrong. While Acts 2:36 shows Jesusí receiving exalted status, John 17:5-7 shows that Jesus received back His exalted status that He had before the world began.
Q: Does Acts 2:38 mean water baptism is necessary for salvation?
A: No, as the thief on the cross and some early martyrs can attest. Jesus is necessary for salvation. Neither repentance nor water baptism merits our salvation. Those are our responding to Jesusí work. Baptism is to be an outward sign of our prior inward repentance.
Note that Acts 2:38 was a command, not a formula. If Acts 2:38 was a formula, then one might erroneously conclude that loving God, faith, believing, and trusting God are unnecessary, as they are not mentioned here. All who come to Christ should be baptized, and that is as true today as it was then. However, It is the blood of Jesus, not our baptism that saves us. Still, Christians will want to obey Christ, and be water baptized.
Colossians 2:11-12 shows that circumcision was a type of baptism. As Justin Martyr pointed out, since only males and not females could be circumcised, that proved that circumcision was given by God as a sign, not a work of righteousness. (Dialogue with Trypho ch.23 p.206)
See When Critics Ask p.428-429, The Complete Book of Bible Answers p.208-211, When Cultists Ask p.195-196, and Hard Sayings of the Bible p.514-515 for more info.
Q: In Acts 2:38 many say we need to repent of sins for salvation, others say only by faith, and others say repentance towards God. What does the Bible say?
A: I believe the first way is what the Bible teaches. I heard one time there were two Campus Crusade missionaries in Moscow, Russia, and they saw a couple of prostitutes on the street. They went over to them and starting talking to them, pulling out a Four Spiritual Laws tract. The prostitutes then pulled out their Four Spiritual Laws tracts and said they believe that, and even gave them to all of their clients!
Some Bible verses say "repent and believe" but others say "believe". But "believe" in the Biblical sense implies obedience, and not just intellectual assent, as taught in James 2:14-20 and 1 John 2:3-4,9; 1 John 2:15-16. Now John is not saying you have to be sinless (1 John 1:10), but rather we are not to continue in sin (1 John 3:6)
In the message Peter gave at Pentecost in Acts 2:38, it was "Repent and be baptized". As Peter said in 1 Peter 4:21 the baptism is not actually to remove the dirt (whether physical or spiritual) but it is the pledge of a good conscience towards God.
Other verses stressing our need for repentance are:
Matthew 3:2; 3:8,11; 4:17; 11:20; 21:32
Mark 1:4,15; 6:12
Luke 3:3,5,8; 5:32; 15:7,10; 16:30; 24:37
Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 8:22; 11:18; 13:24; 17:30; 19:4; 20:21; 26:20
2 Corinthians 7:9,10
2 Timothy 2:25
2 Peter 3:9
Revelation 2:5,16; 2:21,22; 3:3; 3:19; 9:20,21; 16:9,11
(From The NIV Complete Concordance)
Q: In Acts 2:39, does any scripture indicate that the Bible applies to people who were not Jews living in Israel?
A: Yes, there are some verses that extend the promises to us. (All of these quotes are taken from the NIV)
Acts 2:39 "The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off - for all whom the Lord our God will call."
Ephesians 1:3 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ."
Romans 10:11-12 "As the Scripture says, ĎAnyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.í For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile - the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,"
Galatians 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
2 Peter 1:1 "...To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:" Note that Peter is writing here, and our faith as Gentiles is just as precious as his faith as a Jew, for in truth, there is only one faith.
Romans 11:17 "If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root,"
Now Christians have different opinions as to what extent we are the Israel of God, and Godís role for the ethnic Jews today. Looking at such things as the terrible Holocaust of World War II, Satan apparently still has his eye on Jews for evil. Jews themselves have questioned how much protection God is giving them since that happened. In general, Christians who are dispensationalists tend to hold Jewish people today with special respect as God is still dealing with them. Christians who are into "covenant theology" tend to say that since the Jews rejected Christ, they currently have no different place in Godís eyes than any other ethnic group.
Regardless of how God looks at Jewish people today, they apparently have a special role to play in the endtimes. The 144,000 witnesses in Revelation will all be pure Jewish men. In Zechariah 12:1-9 they will have enemies gathered around Jerusalem. In Zechariah 12:10-14 they will have a mass conversion to Christ, "mourning for the one they pierced." In Daniel 9:26 the Antichrist will make a covenant with the Jews, and break it after 3 1/2 years and destroy the city and the sanctuary.
Prior to the Jews, God promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him (Galatians 3:8-9), we all are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26), and we are all considered children of promise, of Sarah and not Hagar as Galatians 4:24-28 shows.
Q: In Acts 2:40, why did Peter have such an urgency to share the Gospel message with people who were already trying to be good?
A: Peter genuinely cared for them. Just trying to be good is not sufficient to get to Godís Heaven, a transformation is required. Even the Jews needed to be born again.
Peter was even pleading with the Jews to accept Jesus in 2:40. If someone is in a burning house, you do not just invite them to come outside because the weather is nice; you urgently tell them to be saved.
Q: In Acts 2:42, what does the breaking of bread mean?
A: This does not simply mean eating and drinking, because they would not have "devoted" themselves to just eating and drinking. Instead, this refers to partaking of the Lordís Supper, which Jesus told them to do in remembrance of Him in Luke 22:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:24-26.
Q: In Acts 2:44 and Acts 4:32, does this mean Christians should not own private property?
A: No. This example of the first Christians living in Jerusalem is not necessary for us to follow. In the New Testament there is a counter-example, of Paulís private ownership of his cloak in 2 Timothy 4:13. Furthermore, Paul exhorted the Corinthians to be generous in 2 Corinthians 8. He would not have to do that if the church already had taken all of their property.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.360 points out that this distribution was voluntary, and not given to all, but given to those who had needs
See When Critics Ask p.429-430, When Cultists Ask p.198 and Hard Sayings of the Bible p.517-519 for more info.
Q: In Acts 2:44, does "everything in common" include promiscuous sex, as the Children of God cult teaches?
A: No, for two reasons.
1. Women and men are not things to be traded or used as objects. This refers to material things, not people or relationships.
2. Since they were obeying God, they would not have evil things in common, such as stolen goods, either.
This sounds like straining a gnat and swallowing a camel, to try to justify promiscuous sex based on this verse, and ignore everything the Bible says about sexual purity. See When Cultists Ask p.197-198 for more info.
Q: In Acts 3:3, what are alms?
A: This is money handed out to poor people.
Q: In Acts 3:3-6, how much faith and hope did the man have that he would be healed?
A: The beggar was lame from birth, he lay at the temple door day after day, and he gave no hint that he hoped to be cured. He was just content with a small handout of money. How much today are we content with just a little from God, when God wants to do more in our lives.
Q: In Acts 3:7, given the severity and length of time of his disability, the man had every reason to make an excuse that he could not walk. But he didnít. When do we try to make excuses to God, when we should just do it?
A: How powerful something is does not matter, compared with Godís power. If we just keep obeying God, as we have opportunity, God will meet us and guide us.
As one person said, "Donít tell God how big the storm is; tell the storm how big your God is."
Q: In Acts 3:13, did the Jews deny Jesus in the presence of Pilate, though Pilate was determined to let Jesus go?
A: Yes. This is shown clearly in Matthew 27:17-26, Luke 23:4-25, and John 19:4-16. It is shown less clearly in Mark 15:9-15.
Q: In Acts 3:17-21, were the Jewish people given another chance to have the Kingdom of God set up on earth here?
A: Christians disagree.
Yes: 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.128 and Scofield believe the Jews as a nation were given the opportunity here to set up the Kingdom of God on earth. Of course, God knew in advance that they would reject this opportunity though.
No: Many others say that the appeal here was made to each individual hearing the message.
The Believerís Bible Commentary p.1593 says that godly men disagree on this.
Q: In Acts 3:19, why were they told to repent and be converted?
A: This is an important point to notice. Acts 3:19 states that the purpose of repentance and turning to God was so that their sins would be wiped out. There is still an eternal aspect to salvation, since God foreknew and predestined those who would go to Heaven. However Acts 3:19 shows there is a "time" aspect also, and in one respect, our sins are forgiven "when" we repent and are converted.
Q: In Acts 3:21,26, does this support Universalism, that all will be saved?
A: No. Jesus came as the atoning sacrifice for the whole world (1 John 2:2) in order to turn everyone away from their wicked ways. However, for those who choose not to turn from the ungodly ways, God does not force anyone into Heaven against their will.
Immediate universalism, that all immediately that go to Heaven is false according to Mt 21:46; Jn 3:36; 5:40-43; 6:45; 8:24; 10:8; 12:47-48; 14:6; (Implied) Acts 4:12; 2 Thess 1:8-9.
Eventual universalism, that some may go to Hell but all eventually go to Heaven, is false according to Mark 9:44-48; Revelation 20:10.
See When Cultists Ask p.198-199 and When Critics Ask p.430 for complementary answers.
Q: In Acts 3:13,22,26 and 4:27 why is Jesus referred to in these verses as a holy servant, and when He is called the Son of Man what does that mean?
A: Two of Jesusí favorite titles seemed to be "Son of man" and "Son of God". The first emphasizes that Jesus is fully human, and the second is that Jesus was fully God. Jesus did not just look like a man, had some commonality with humans, but rather Jesus was 100% man. He was every bit as human as you and I. Likewise Jesus was not a little bit God, or partially God, but He was 100% God.
Jesus had all the glory due to God in Heaven. And yet, Jesus descended down to earth. Hebrews 5:7-8 does not say Jesus as a "Friend" of God the Father, but on earth Jesus was "subject" and learned obedience. Philippians does not say Jesus was a rightful servant, or that He deserved to be a servant, but rather that He voluntarily chose to become a servant.
But scripture goes on. Servants often had high positions, as schoolmasters, tutors, government officials, and accountants. It was only lowly servants who would have to wash their masterís feet. Yet Jesus was not just a servant, but a lowly servant of the disciples, washing their feet in John 13:4-17. Jesus still affirmed that they were right to call Him Lord in John 13:13, yet Jesus was acting as a servant of the disciples, and saying we should all be servants of each other.
Q: In Acts 3:26, was Jesus successful in turning every one away from their iniquities?
A: Two points to consider in the answer.
1. Jesus was completely successful in doing everything He was supposed to do, and in providing everything, on Godís end, for everyone to turn away from their iniquities.
2. However, some choose not to turn away from their sins, and that is not the fault of Jesus.
Q: In Acts 3:32-35 and 2 Cor 8:13-15, are Christians to have financial equality with all other Christians today?
A: Acts 3:32-36 shows that the earliest Christians were very generous and shared things in common, and that no one was in need. However, the Bible neither commands nor gives the example of a "Christian communism", because Acts 5:4 shows that Ananias had the right to keep the land and the money for himself. It is just that he did not have the right to claim to give all the money to the church when in fact he did not. Paul had personal property of his cloak and some scrolls that he writes about in 2 Timothy 4:15.
2 Corinthians 8:13-15 says that no one should have too much and no one should have too little. These are challenging verses for wealthy Christians, but we are to follow all of the Bible, not just parts of the Bible.
See Now Thatís a Good Question p.444-445 for more info.
Q: In Acts 4:12, is Jesus really the only way?
A: Yes. Jesus is the only way for everyone according to this verse, John 14:6, and Acts 4:12. If you disagree, you disagree with almost all genuine Christians through out history is a not as bad as calling Jesus and Peter either liars or else crazy to think Jesus was the only way. Do you really believe that Jesus said something that misled all His followers for thousands of years, and allowed His apostles to do so, too?
Slander is saying something that a person either knows is a lie, or else has a reckless disregard for the truth. If you believe Jesus and Peter were slanderers, it would be a lie for you to say you believe in Jesus and you are a follower of Him.
See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.515-517, Now Thatís a Good Question p.140-141, When Critics Ask p.430-431, and When Cultists Ask p.199-200 for more info. Jesus Under Fire : Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus p.178-205 has an entire essay by R. Douglas Geivett, associate professor at Talbot on this topic.
Q: In Acts 4:12, apart from the Bible, how do we know that all religions are not true?
A: Before answering the question, here is a brief acrostic of the beliefs of some religions.
|Animist - Nearly every tree and rock has a spirit to fear and appease with offerings.|
|Buddhism - Life is suffering.|
|Cargo Cult - (New Guinea) March in formation like the gods (really WWII soldiers) did, so they will return with their gifts of cargo.|
|Daoism (later) - There are many spirits to be worshipped.|
|Epicurean philosophy - Life is great. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.|
|Family of Love (Children of God) be a sexual prostitute for Jesus.|
|Greek - Worship Zeus, who raped Europa and others. There is Hades but no heaven.|
|Hashashins (small Muslim sect) - They got stoned on hashish before assassinating people.|
|Islam - The Trinity is false, and Jesus Christ is not the Son of God|
|Jainism - It is spiritual to starve to death.|
|Khonds (of India) - It is good to slowly torture people to death.|
|Lubavitchers - (of America) The promised Messiah may have come, and his name is Rabbi Menachem Schneerson of New York.|
|Mayan (and Aztec too) Ripping peopleís hearts out while alive is pleasing to the gods.|
|New Thought Movement - A receptive mind can cure every illness. Sickness is not reality.|
|Oneida Community - (of America) All adults are "married" to all others in the community.|
|Papua New Guinea - As a sign of reverence, eat the brains of your dead relatives.|
|Quraysh (pre-Mohammed) - worship a moon god idol named Allah.|
|Roman (later) - You must worship the Roman Emperor or die.|
|Shakerism (of America) - All sexual relations are forbidden.|
|Thuggees - (of India) In January one worships God by strangling unsuspecting men.|
|Unitarian Universalists - You may join with any religious belief whatsoever. (except that there is only one way through Jesus.)|
|Vikings - The only way to go to heaven (Valhalla) is to die violently.|
|Witchcraft (early) - There are many things you must do to avoid the evil eye.|
|Yamamoto (Indians) - One of the highest virtues is treachery.|
|Zoroastrianism - There is only one true God, and worship of others should be forcibly suppressed.|
|It should be obvious that all of these contradictory statements cannot be true.|
Q: In Acts 4:12, apart from the Bible, how do we know that all major world religions are not true?
A: Here are some brief statements.
Jews believe Jesus is not the Messiah from God. Christians believe Jesus is the Messiah from God. Hindus and many Buddhists believe worshipping idols as god(s). Christian and Jewish teaching says that idolatry is a great evil. Early Christians preferred torture and death to worshipping idols. Mohammed taught Muslims that idolators who do not repent should be killed.
If you stopped and asked five people for directions to get somewhere, and they gave as different answers as these religions give, you would have to conclude that at least some of them were wrong. Either
a) idols are OK to worship,
b) people who worship idols should be killed
b) it is better to be tortured and die than to worship idols,
All three of the above cannot be true.
a) you should be a blessing to others, or
b) it is a good thing, pleasing to God to curse Jews and Christians as Mohammed taught.
Both cannot be true.
Imagine you are looking at the intersection of two streets on a small island. You can probably take any street and eventually end up on any desired destination on the island. Most religions are like that. As long as you want to travel on the island, it does not matter which road you take. You can drive around the island to the right, to the left, or down the middle. The roads will cross eventually. However, if you get off the island and on the mainland of Godís Kingdom, before the hurricane comes, you must take the one long bridge. Saying this is not narrow-mindedness, but geography on the map. Saying there is only one way to God is not narrow-minded opinions by us, but the truth taught by Jesus.
An old tale tells of a con-man who shows new immigrants to America the Brooklyn bridge. With all the cars going over it, the con-man offers to sell the bridge, which he does not own, to the immigrant so the immigrant can make money collecting tolls. Sometimes people want to trust in an imaginary bridge, or a bridge they plan to build themselves. The truth about salvation is that you cannot "buy" anything. You can freely cross the narrow bridge of Jesusí cross, or you can stay on the island of catastrophe.
Q: In Acts 4:12, what can you say to someone who thinks all religions lead to God.
A: It depends on the person and the situation. Here are three different but complementary answers.
a. It is comforting to think that all is right with the world, and every religion leads people to God. Are the Taliban, the wealthy Rev. Moon, the immoral Rajneesh, violent David Koresh, suicidal Jim Jones, all "beacons" that have led their followers to what pleases God? Was Jesusí sacrifice, dying in agony on the cross, of no consequence, or worse yet, an unneeded waste? No, Jesus said that broad was the way that led to destruction, and narrow was the road that led to eternal life. Now some reject Jesusí words as those of a fool, thinking He did not know what He was talking about. However, if we honestly trust Jesus, we have to come to grips with the fact that all is not right with the majority of the world, and that we have work to do in sharing about the narrow way.
b. On a lighter note, if someone tells me that all religions lead to God, I ask them if they know that they are really sticking their neck out when they say that. For example, in the Thuggee religion it is an act of worship to strangle other people to death. So since they believe all religions lead to God, would they please turn around and close their eyes so that I can practice an act of worship in that religious tradition?
c. Mohammed taught attacking non-Muslims and killing pagans in Sura 9:29 and Bukhari Hadith vol.4 no.196 p.124. People called Muslims extremists are simply people who take everything Mohammed said seriously. This kind of violent Muslim might say to a Universalist: My prophet, Mohammed peace be upon him, told us to kill unbelievers. However, before I chop off your head in obedience to Allah, I just wanted you to know I appreciate your validating my religion as being correct.
Q: In Acts 4:12, are religions that do good works good?
A: Here is a letter of recommendation about one of those religions, that emphasized love for others.
"Knowing of your congregationís deep involvement in the major social and constitutional issues of our country is a great inspiration to me." -- Walter Mondale (U.S. Vice President) in a letter of reference for Rev. Jim Jones. Jones presented this letter of reference to the government of Guyana when Jonestown was first established. (quoted in The New Republic, 12/2/1978) and in Experts Speak p.283. Jim Jones later forced his followers at Jonestown to commit suicide.
Q: In Acts 4:19, when should we disobey the commands of religious leaders?
A: Two points to consider: the commands and the leaders.
Commands: In a similar way as the laws of a nation take precedence of the laws of a province, Godís commands take precedence over the commands of others. Everything that people tell you, even the words of godly pastors, one should check against Scripture.
Leaders: Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:5 that there will be people who have the form of godliness but deny its power. We are to have nothing to do with them. Of course, you are having something to do with a person, if you acknowledge them as your spiritual leader.
Titus 3:10 says to have nothing to do with someone who is divisive after you have warned him twice. In Revelation 2:20, the church of Thyatira was rebuked by Jesus for tolerating a false prophetess who promoted sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols.
Now no Christian leader is sinlessly perfect, or 100% on every single doctrinal point. But if a Christian leader is unwilling to submit to God, we should not submit to him. For our Christian leaders who are walking with God, imperfect though they may be, we are commanded to submit to them as Hebrews 13:17 and 1 Peter 5:2-5 show.
One early writer to discuss this point was Tertullian (198-220 A.D.) in Scorpiace ch.14 p.648.
As a historical note, John Wycliffe (~1330-1382) took this one step further. He was influenced by Richard Fitzralph in the idea that "dominion comes from God." This concept is that human power and authority come from God and are sustained by God. Disobedient and ungodly religious leaders should not be supported, or paid. Wycliffe asked: If the entire Roman Catholic Church is corrupt, then why should England be supplying Rome with money?
What was the Roman Catholic reaction? Wycliffeís death from a stroke probably saved him from being martyred. Anyway, the church dug up Wycliffeís body and threw it out.
Q: In Acts 4:21, how did all men glorify God here?
A: The context of "all the people" were all the people who saw what happened. Some of them might turn away from the apostles later, but for now, they were all expressing their praise to God.
Q: In Acts 4:22, what is the significance of the man being 40 years old?
A: The significance is the lesson that age is not significant to God.
Bodies do not grow much after 20, and bodies heal more slowly with age. All of this is irrelevant to God who works miracles.
Likewise, an older person might be reluctant to repent and turn to God, because they have wasted their earlier years, and they feel too set in their ways. All of this is irrelevant to God. Do not try to tell God that you want to come to Him, but that He is not powerful enough to overcome your limitations or your age. God does not believe that, and neither should you.
Q: In Acts 4:23, were Peter and John gossiping, to tell the other believers all the priests said?
A: Four points to consider in the answer.
1. Gossiping is a serious sin, according to Proverbs 11:13; 16:28; 18:8; 20:19; 26:20,22 and 2 Corinthians 12:20; 3 John 10; Romans 1:29; and 1 Timothy 5:13. Gossiping and slander include telling things about others that there is no good reason to say, and telling things falsely.
2. Peter and John were not gossiping, because they were telling what happened to them, and they were telling the truth.
3. In addition, the judgment and actions of the chief priests and elders was important for the other Christians to know about.
4. Finally, they were telling about the healing of God, and one can always tell others about what God has done.
Q: In Acts 4:36, was there a genuine Gospel of Barnabas, written by Barnabas as some Muslims claim?
A: No. The Gospel of Barnabas was a forgery of the Middle ages. Here some of the reasons we know it is not an ancient work.
Basic facts show that is not an ancient work. The Gospel of Barnabas is known only in Italian, and no ancient writer ever referred to it. It mentions things that were not used until centuries later. Furthermore, other gospel forgeries written in Arabic were also found in Granada. They were discovered after 1588, and the forgers were Moors. When all generally reject these other gospels forgeries, then why accept this one? Though one Muslim writer, Ata ur-Rahman, has confused the Gospel of Barnabas with another writing called the Letter/Epistle of Barnabas, there is no similarity except for the name of the person.
Contradicting both the Bible and Qurían
The following are teachings of the Gospel of Barnabas that contradict Islamic doctrine in the Qurían, as well as Christian teaching in the Bible.
|Jesus is not the Messiah. ch.83 p.181 ch.97 p.223 ch.42 p.97|
|A prophetís words are only to the people they were sent to. ch.43 p.101. (Sura 4:150-151 says not to separate between messengers)|
|The Messiah is Mohammed. ch.97 p.225-227|
|Ishmael was the ancestor of the Messiah. ch.190 p.425; ch.191 p.407; ch.208 p.459; ch.43 p.103|
|God created all things for the Messiah. ch.191 p.427|
|God created everything for Mohammed ch.39 p.91 "[Mohammed] shall be my messenger, for whom I have created all things; who shall give light to the world when he shall come; whose soul was set in a celestial splendour sixty thousand years before I made anything."|
|"The messenger of God [Mohammed] shall answer: ĎO Lord, I remember that when thou didst create me, thou saidst that thou hadst willed to make for love of me the world and paradise, and angels and men, that they might glorify thee by me thy servant.í"ch.55 p.131. Also ch.56. p.133|
|Without faith in Mohammed, none will be saved. (Most Muslims do not believe you should have saving faith in Mohammed.) ch.192 p.429|
|Jesus is a voice in the wilderness. ch.42 p.97|
|Angels "rolled" the soldiers away for Jesus. ch.153 p.355|
|Mohammed is coming. ch.44 p.105|
|Faithful Muslims who do not have works will be in Hell for 70,000 years. ch.137 p.319|
|Mohammed will go to Hell and be terrified as he beholds the punishment of others ch.135 p.315|
|Mary gave birth to Jesus without pain ch.3 p.9|
|Unlawful to hate anything except sin. ch.86 p.199|
|God is a father. ch.133 p.307|
|God is our Father. (-no sons, though) ch.17 p.31,33|
|There shall be no envy in Heaven. ch.177 p.401|
|Jesus went to the Sea of Galilee, and having embarked in a ship sailed to his city of Nazareth. ch.20 p.41 (Nazareth is inland.)Romans said the idols were almighty. ch.152 p.353|
|Canaanites despised Pharisees. ch.144 p.335|
|Pharisees in Jesusí time were very strange in their ascetism. ch.145 p.337-339|
|Funny things about Pharisees. ch.143 p.343-345|
|Rome has 28,000 gods. ch.152 p.353|
|Roman Senate decreed that none should call Jesus God of Son of God. ch.98 p.227, or speak of Jesus. ch.157 p.367|
|Roman Senateís decree. ch.210 p.461|
|People who preached penitence were called Nazarenes (after Jesus). ch.194 p.433|
|Judas smiled when the disciples mistook him for Jesus. ch.216 p.471|
|Israel says Jesus was God or the Son of God. ch.138 p.321|
|Barnabas was one of the disciples of Jesus. ch.83 p.191; ch.88 p.205; ch.19 p.39; and ch.72 p.167|
|There was a great famine in Israel in Jesusí time. ch.138 p.321|
|God gave Jesus bad consequences because others called Jesus God. ch.112 p.257|
|The mountains (plural) of Samaria. ch.81 p.189|
|Coins in chapter 54 (golden denarius divided into sixty minuti) were Spanish.?|
|Abrahamís father claimed there were an infinite number of gods. (The Sumerians did not have the concept of infinity) ch.26 p.57|
|Whereupon, as the food was going down [Adamís throat], he remembered the words of God; wherefore, wishing to stop the food, he put his hand into this throat, where every man has the mark." (The phrase "Adamís apple" was first a Medieval European phrase) ch.40 p.93|
|Pilate was governor of Judea, when Jesus was born. ch.3 p.7|
|Jews taught to fast, do alms, make prayer, and go on pilgrimage. ch.89 p.207|
|Jubilee is now every 100 years. ch.83 p.191-193|
|Kingsí barons. ch.131 p.301|
|You desire horses like knights. ch.69 p.159|
|The burden of the republic. ch.69 p.161|
|Courtiers. Ch.133 p.307|
|After the nightly prayer. ch.131 p.299|
|Pinnacle where the scribes used to preach. ch.127 p.291; ch.129 p.297; and ch.12 p.19|
|Prodigal son, new [leg] hose. ch.147 p.241|
|God is not composite. ch.161 p.377|
|Man is composite. ch.168 p.389|
|Lazarus and his two sisters were proprietors in other towns of Magdala and Bethany, just like in the Middle Ages! ch.194 p.433|
|Jesus (really Judas) was dressed as a juggler. ch.217 p.475|
|Pine-cones (there are none where Jesus lived). ch.113 p.259|
|Fistula. (A medical term not used until the Middle Ages for an opening in the body for the purpose of drainage.) ch.120 p.275|
|Jesus could not read at age 12. ch.9 p.15|
|Do penance. ch.121 p.277|
|Jesus made prayer in union with the messenger of God, and Jesus heard Mohammedís voice, [Did Mohammed live before he was born?] ch.84 p.195|
Q: In Acts 4:36, so who wrote the Gospel of Barnabas?
A: First some clues, and then three possible suspects.
Clues: An Italian printer named Arrivabene in 1547 published the first Italian translation of the Koran. The writer of the Gospel of Barnabas was not well versed in Biblical history nor in orthodox Muslim theology, but apparently he (or she) was very knowledgeable of European Medieval customs. The Italian of the Gospel of Barnabas had evidence of both Venetian and Tuscan dialects. Latin spellings showing Latin Vulgate influence. There are also influences from Danteís works.
There were Arabic notes in the margin. However, as David Sox (p.51) mentions, they were not written by an orthodox Muslim. The Raggs conjecture that since the dark green, oriental-type binding is very similar to the binding of a Turkish document of 1575 in the Venetian archives, the binding and marginal notes could both have been done in Istanbul/Constantinople.
First Suspect: Fra Marino was the father inquisitor of Venice from 1542 to 1550, and perhaps his motive was revenge (Sox p.68). Felice Peretti (the future Pope Sixtus V) was a severe, devoted inquisitor of Venice who made many enemies. In the sixteenth century there were 843 trials for Protestantism and Anabaptism, 65 for blasphemous speech and 148 for sorcery in Venice alone. (Sox p.57) In the 1530ís Venice was criticized for its tolerance. An Augustinian friar was punished for teaching heresy at the Church of St. Barnabas in Venice. (Sox p.59) A handwriting analysis of Fra Marinoís handwriting and the Gospel of Barnabas show they could have come from the same person according to Sox p.70.
Second Suspect: Anselmo Turmeda (who later became Abd-Allah ibn Abd Allah) from Majorca, Spain, studied in Bologna for ten years. In his biography, written 1383-1390, he claimed to be a priest before his conversion to Islam. His teacher at Bologna was a secret Muslim. De Epalza (p.63-64) says he was a converted Franciscan who took revenge on Christianity after his conversion to Islam. The mention of Spanish coins in the Gospel of Barnabas supports this theory.
Other Suspects: Other Gospel forgeries, these at least written by Moors in Arabic, are from Grenada. None was known prior to 1588 though.
Conclusion: Imagine you were a Muslim who was told that someone found a lost "book" from God. Among other things, this "Sura" mentioned that Mohammed sailed on a boat to Mecca, and this Sura contradicted the teaching of the Bible and contradicted the Qurían on ten points. The oldest manuscript of the alleged Sura was written in Italian, which is not only not a Mideastern language, but Italian did not exist in the time of Mohammed. Finally, this supposed Sura had some historical customs, which did not occur until 1,000 years later in Europe.
I think it is safe to say a Muslim would probably have a few questions, to say the least. Before you embrace this medieval forgery as an authentic work that shows the "real" teachings of Jesus, remember that this work contradicts the Qurían, too.
For more information, see Answering Islam, and Origins and Sources of the Gospel of Barnabas. To read the Gospel of Barnabas in English, see The Gospel of Barnabas translated by Lonsdale and Laura Ragg (Bakhtyar Printers, Lahore, Pakistan, 1981).
Q: In Acts 4:37 and Acts 5:2, why were the church contributions laid at the apostlesí feet?
A: Scripture does not say, but we can see four possible reasons.
Authority: Recognition of the apostlesí authority in the church to take and distribute the money and other contributions.
Lack of Preconditions: By giving the gift this way, there were no strings attached, and no conditions mandate.
Nameless Giving: Since the apostleís had it distributed instead of the giver himself, there would not be an opportunity for praise or fame for the giver.
Trust: The people giving trusted that the apostles would use the gift wisely.
Q: In Acts 4:37 and Acts 5:2, should churches today operate out of trust, or should they have financial controls?
A: Both. If we know we cannot trust a church leader or organization, we should not be giving to that leader or organization. The issue here is not just fraud, but spending Godís gifts on things that are not honoring God.
However, trust does not mean that financial controls should not also be used. Even good ministries, on occasion have had problems with an employee taking money. Good ministries have caught that with financial controls. There is an umbrella organization, called the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability (ECFA), that has hundreds of Christian organizations as its members. Each organization has to agree to the Statement of Faith, and each has to conform the ECFA accounting practices, which include an outside, independent audit by an accounting firm once a year.
Q: In Acts 4:37 and Acts 5:2, should contributions today go to a church or directly to the needy poor?
A: There is no hard and fast rule, but there are four points to consider in the answer.
1. Helping the poor, orphans, and widows, should be an important priority in our lives (James 1:27; Deuteronomy 15:11; Isaiah 1:17; 58:6-10; Jeremiah 5:28; 22:16; Galatians 2:10; Psalm 41:21; 24:11-12; 29:7; 31:9,20 68:5; Proverbs 19:9-10; 22:9; Matthew 25:34-36; Zechariah 7:9-10; Acts 10:2,4; Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 6:18-19). "Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor Will also cry himself and not be heard." (Proverbs 21:13 NKJV)
2. The poor who refuse to work are not to be helped, until they are willing to work (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
3. When you give directly to the poor, give wisely. Try to reduce the chance that the money will be used for drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, lottery tickets, or other wasteful things.
4. When you give to or through a church, give wisely. Find out what the organization is supporting. For example, a certain percentage of the offerings of many mainline denominations went to the World Council of Churches. They were giving money to Rhodesian (Zimbabwean) guerillas, who killed missionaries of one of the member organizations of the World Council of Churches.
If some of your money goes to support apostates (such as Episcopalian bishop Spong) or seminaries where they deny Christís physical resurrection (such as some at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University), realize that some of the money you claim you are giving to God is being given to wolves who scatter the flock. Why waste money giving it to those who not committed to following the Christ represented in the Bible?
Q: In Acts 5:1-10, what was wrong with Ananias and Sapphira selling land and laying only part of the money at the apostlesí feet?
A: Giving only part of the money was fine. The problem was that they lied and said it was all of the money. See also the next question.
Q: In Acts 5:1-10, how come people who misrepresent their contributions to the church today are not killed?
A: Two points to consider in the answer.
1. On one hand they were dishonest, but it was even a greater sin to lie to the apostles and think they could get away with lying to God.
2. Nothing says that they were more deserving of immediate physical death than all others who have cheated people in the name of religion. However, they received their justice "earlier" to make an example of them during the first days of the church under the direct leadership of the apostles.
See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.519-521 for more info.
Q: In Acts 5:3-4, is the Holy Spirit a female Spirit as the alleged Korean Messiah Rev. Moon teaches (Divine Principle (fifth edition, 1977) p.215-216?
A: No. The Holy Spirit does not have x or y chromosomes or sexual organs. However, when the Holy Spirit is referred to in the Bible, the Spirit is referred to as He, and never she. John 14:17 says, "The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him,..." (NIV). In the Greek grammar, word endings have gender, and John 14:16, 26 and Acts 13:2 have the masculine gender. John 15:26 and John 16:13 also say "Him".
In summary, John 14:17 is true. Those who insist the Holy Spirit is female do not know Him.
Q: In Acts 5:13,14, how did no one else join the believers, since they were adding to their number of believers?
A: According to The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.365 the literal Greek is "none of the rest". Because of fear of persecution and what happened to Ananias and Sapphira, nobody would tag along with the believers, unless and until they too came to believe.
Q: In Acts 5:30, 10:39; and 13:29 was Jesus hung on a tree, or crucified on a cross?
A: Jesus was crucified on a cross made out of wood. The cross would come from the trunk of a dead tree. Being "hung on a tree" was a curse according to Deuteronomy 21:23. Using this term would emphasize that Jesus took upon himself the humiliation and curse for us.
Q: In Acts 5:34 and 22:3, what do we know about Gamaliel apart from the Bible?
A: Gamaliel, son of Simon, was a famous Jewish rabbi who was the grandson of another famous rabbi named Hillel. Gamaliel died in 52 A.D. The Pharisaic tradition of Hillel believed that a man could divorce his wife for any reason.
Q: In Acts 5:36, when did Judas of Galilee live?
A: According to Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews 18.1.1-6; 20.5.2 (c.93-94 A.D.); Wars of the Jews 2.8.1; 2.17.8-9, this Judas lived around 7 A.D. He was born in Gamala in Gaulanities in Galilee. He refused to give tribute to Caesar and founded the Zealots. Eusebius of Caesarea (323339/340 A.D.) discusses a rebel named Judas, a Gaulonite from Galilee, from a city called Gamala in Eusebiusí Ecclesiastical History book 1 ch.5.5-6 p.89. Eusebius says that Judas exhorted the nation saying taxation was downright slavery, and that the Jews were cowards if they submitted to pay tribute to the Romans, or endured masters who were mortal. He refers to Josephus.
Q: In Acts 5:36, when did Theudas live?
A: First a fact that is not relevant to the answer, and then the answer. Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews 20.5.1 (c.93-94 A.D.) mentions a Theudas that was decapitated by Cuspius Fadius in 44 A.D. while Fadius was procurator. However, this would be after the events in Acts.
The Answer: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.367, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.377-378, and When Critics Ask p.431-432 say that the Theudas with 400 rebels was another person by the same name. Rebel sentiment against the Romans was high, since there were a group of people, called Zealots, who were almost continuously fighting against the Romans, until the successful, but short-lived revolt in 70 A.D. This Theudas was one who rebelled prior to Judas, while the rebel Josephus mentioned rebelled after Judas.
Q: In Acts 5:36, what evidence is there that Paul studied under Gamaliel?
A: Besides Paulís excellent knowledge of the Old Testament and claim to be a Pharisee, there is one specific example. In 1 Corinthians 14:21, Paul called a quote from Isaiah 28:11-12 a part of the Torah (Law). The Sadducees and others only accepted the first five books of the Bible as the Torah, but the Pharisees considered all the Old Testament Torah (Wycliffe Bible Commentary p.651) So this indicates Paul studied under a Pharisee, not a Sadducee.
Q: In Acts 5:42 (NIV), is it "temple courts" or "temple" (KJV)?
A: This is an issue of English translation; there is no question about the Greek.
The Greek word hireon means both the temple and the sacred precincts around the temple. It is translated as:
temple courts: NIV
temple: uNASB, NRSV, KJV, NKJV, Wuestís Expanded Translation
temple complex: The Holman Christian Standard Bible
The NET Bible has "temple courts" with a footnote explaining this.
There is nothing "plural" about the word, but the word means more than just the temple building itself.
Q: In Acts 6:1, why would there be a lot of widows in the church, anyway?
A: First a wrong answer: "because their husbands were killed for the faith", is not correct at this time, because almost no one had been killed for their faith yet. There are probably three reasons. 1) there might be a lot of needy widows in society in general. Back then it was hard for a woman to make a living without a man, unless she was a weaver or merchant, or had a disreputable profession.
2) Part of the reason might be what has been observed in some developing countries; when an elderly person turns to Christ, the family that was financially supporting them stops doing so. This would not only persuade many to return to their familyís faith, but be a financial burden for the church to bear, drawing away money that could otherwise be used for evangelism. And if the church did not care for her own widows, then it would show the world that Christians donít really care for other people, or at least other people who donít have money.
3) Apart from their family, the Jews already had a means of distributing food to poor hungry Jewish people according to The Expositorís Bible Commentary vol.9 p.330. But if a person no longer listened to the Jewish leaders, then why should the leaders include them in the food distribution.
But the widowsí needs were not at all a drain on the church; rather it was the churchís proper role to take care of them. Evangelism, and the money involved with that, is not our primary responsibility; obediently pleasing God is. Helping the poor and widows is not a drain on the churchís mission; rather it is a fundamental part of the churchís mission.
Q: In Acts 6:1, should the Greek-speaking Christians have complained at all, since Php 2:14-15 says to do everything without complaining or arguing?
A: The Greek word in Acts 61 is the same as in Philippians 2:14, goggusmos, which means complain, grumble, grudge, or murmur. It is also used in John 7:12 and as an adverb in 1 Peter 4:9. Murmurers are in Jude 16, and the verb form in Matthew 20:11; Luke 5:30; John 6:41,43,61; 7:32; and 1 Corinthians 10:10. It is always used in a negative sense. These Christians should not have complained, but they still should have brought up the issue.
Q: In Acts 6:1, when, and how, is it appropriate to complain?
A: It is never appropriate to complain or murmur. But it often is appropriate to bring up issues and things that need to be fixed. When you do so, you might be falsely accused of complaining, but there is a difference.
Murmuring can be demoralizing. Putting others down, and destructive way of focusing on the problem. Bringing up issues can be focused on the solution, and working with others to implement it. It is constructive, but sometimes part of being constructive involves tearing down that which is bad and sweeping away the debris.
An interesting point that The Expositorís Bible Commentary vol.9 p.330 brings up is that if Luke were just trying to paint a picture of the perfect harmony of early Christians, then Acts 6 goes exactly against this purpose. Rather, Acts 6 shows that Lukeís purpose was to tell it like is was, problems and all.
Q: In Acts 6:7, after choosing these seven men, why do you think a large number of priests became obedient to the faith?
A: There was no natural reason that choosing these seven men, who all had Greek names, as deacons would make Jewish priests more likely to come to Christ; naturally speaking, one would think the opposite. Perhaps the timing of this showed Godís pleasure with the selection of the seven men.
Q: In Acts 6:9 (KJV), who were the Libertines who formed a synagogue?
A: The word Libertine here means those who were set at liberty. In other words, ex-slaves or freedmen.
In modern slang, a libertine is someone who lives immorally, but that is not what is meant here. So even if someone prefers to use the King James Version, do not preach "you should be libertines of sin", and expect people to understand what you are saying, even though technically this is correct.
Q: In Acts 6:9, what do various translations say?
A: The Greek word in Acts 6:9 is the Synagogue of the Libertinos/Libertinun. There is a manuscript variant, on whether the word for "called" should be first or second declension.
The Williams Translation says, "the synagogue known as that of the Libyans, Cyreneans..." The Greek word for Libya is Libue.
Greenís Literal Translation says, "But some of those of the synagogue rose up, those called Libertines, also some Cyrenians..., ...
The NET Bible says, "But some men from the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), both Cyrenians..."
Wuestís Expanded Translation says, "arose certain ones from the synagogue which is called the synagogue of the Libertines [those who had once been slaves but were set free by Rome], and certain ones from the synagogues of the Cyrenians..."
NASB and uNASB say, " But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians..."
The NIV says, "Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called) Ė Jews of Cyrene..."
The RSV and NRSV say, "Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians..."
Q: In Acts 6:9, what can archaeologists tell us about the synagogue of the Freedmen?
A: The Wycliffe Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology p.321-322 says that on the tip of the southeast hill of Jerusalem archeologists found what is called the "Theodotus Inscription", and it is dated to around 70 A.D.. It reads in part, "Theodotus son of Vettanus, priest and synagogue president, ... has built the synagogue ... and the hostelry and the chambers and the cisterns of water in order to provide lodgings for those from abroad who need them...." It is thought that his family name was from the Roman family of Vettani.
Q: In Acts 6:11 (KJV), what does "suborned" mean?
A: Jay P. Greenís Interlinear Bible says, "induced". The NASB says "secretly induced", and the NIV says "secretly persuaded". Williams Translation says "instigated". The NET Bible says "incited".
Q: In Acts 6:13, why would allegedly God-fearing, religious Jews set up false witnesses?
A: One can be very religious, yet not be right with God. Apparently they thought the end justified the means, and they never thought if God wanted them to use those means. Some people can try to work for God, and yet have a profound lack of faith in Godís ability to take care of things Himself.
Today, if you are ever in a situation where you think you have to do something evil, or sin to "help God out", then stop immediately. God does not require help, and He does not desire that kind of help.
Q: In Acts 7:2,4 (KJV), where is "Charan"?
A: This King James Version word should be "Haran" which is in northwest Syria.
Q: In Acts 7:4, when Abraham left the town of Haran, how was he 75 years old?
A: Unless Abram, Nahor, and Haran were triplets (which though possible is unlikely), Genesis 11:26 refers to Terah being 70 years old when he started having children. Abram was not born until Terah was at least 130. See Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.136-137, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.378, When Critics Ask p.45-46, and 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.309-310 for more info.
Q: In Acts 7:6 and Gen 15:13, how could God prophesy the Israelites would be oppressed for 400 years, since Exodus 12:40-41 says that they were in Egypt for 430 years to the very day? (Two different Mormons pointed to this as a reason not to trust the Bible.)
A: The Israelites were slaves in Egypt for 400 years, but prior to that, they were in Egypt for 30 years under Joseph. (I know of one seventh grader, Amy, who figured out this alleged contradiction in less than one minute.) See Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.137-139 for more info.
By the way, Irenaeus (182-188 A.D.) quotes Acts 7:2-8,56,60a and what he quotes is what we have today. (Against Heresies book 3 ch21 p.434)
Q: In Acts 7:7, how was Egypt judged during the Exodus?
A: Judgment can be an evaluation, or a punishment, and both senses were true here.
Evaluation: When God told Pharaoh through Moses to let his people go, Pharaohís initial refusal, late conniving, and finally sending the army after them showed his intentions. Rather than stopping this, God allowed Pharaoh to oppose God as he wished. The consequences both showed just how hard Pharaohís heart was, and that the continuing plagues only hardened his heart more.
Punishment: Not only did Pharaohís son die, but there was judgment on all of Egypt for the 400 years they oppressed Godís people.
Q: In Acts 7:11 (KJV), where is "Chaínaan"?
A: This King James Version word means "Canaan".
Q: In Acts 7:14 (KJV), what is threescore and fifteen?
A: This is seventy-five.
Q: In Acts 7:14, exactly how many went to Egypt in Jacobís time?
A: Five points to consider in the answer.
1. Stephen said 75. Even if Stephen were mistaken in speaking here, the Bible could be accurately recording the alleged mistaken that Stephen said. However, we should not be hasty in thinking Stephen was wrong, as the following points show
2. In the Hebrew manuscripts, Genesis 46:27 and Exodus 1:5 both say 70 men, including Jacob, Joseph, and Josephís two sons. Acts 7:14 says 75. The Greek Septuagint for Deuteronomy 10:22 also says 70.
3. The Greek Septuagint for Exodus 1:5 say 75. The Greek Septuagint for Genesis 46:27 says 75, because it says Joseph had nine (not two) sons. Genesis 46:20 in The Dead Sea Scroll 4QExod(a) also says seventy-five. See the last question at the end of Genesis and the last question at the end of Exodus for quotes of what the Hebrew and Septuagint say. See A General Introduction to the Bible p.481 and The Expositorís Bible Commentary volume 2 p.262 for more info on 70 vs. 75.
4. Who were these extra sons in the Septuagint (and probably the Dead Sea Scrolls? Genesis 46:20 in the Septuagint lists these seven "sons" (actually grandsons and great-grandsons) as follows:
" ...And there were sons born to Manasses, which the Syrian concubine bore to him, even Machir. And Machir begot Galaad. And the sons of Ephraim, the brother of Manasses; Sutalaam, and Taam. And the sons of Sutalaam; Edom."
Note that this only lists 3 grandsons and 2 grad-grandsons, or five total (not seven). However, both Manasses and Sutalaam had sons (plural).
5. Since Stephen was a Greek-speaking Jew (see Acts 6:1-5), Stephen probably did use the Septuagint and not the Hebrew Old Testament, and this little detail is inerrantly recorded.
Summary: Perhaps Stephen spoke an error here, and the Bible, without error, records what he said. On the other hand, Stephen was probably correct after all.
See Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.141-142, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.378-379, Hard Sayings of the Bible p.521-522, and When Critics Ask p.432-433 for more info.
Q: In Acts 7:16 (KJV), who is "Emmor" and where is "Sychem"?
A: This is Hamor of Shechem, who is mentioned in Joshua 24:32.
Q: In Acts 7:16, how were Jacob and the patriarchs buried at Shechem?
A: See the discussion on Genesis 33:18-19 for the answer.
Q: In Acts 7:19 (KJV), what does "subtilly" mean?
A: This King James Version word means "subtly", or "with subtleness".
Q: In Acts 7:19, how did Pharaoh deal subtly with the Israelites?
A: A number of times Pharaoh told them they could go and then changed his mind. After the last time, he later still sent his army after them.
Q: In Acts 7:20 (KJV), how was Moses exceedingly fair?
A: This does not refer to Mosesí skin complexion, which does not matter to God. Rather, it refers to Moses being fair or favored in Godís sight.
Q: Since Acts 7:22 says Moses learned the wisdom of the Egyptians, what did the Egyptians know back then?
A: The Egyptians knew much about astronomy, the calendar, geography (including places as far away as India), use of meteoritic iron, and weaving fine linen clothes. Silk, presumably from China, has been found in Egypt as early as 1,000 B.C. (See http://www.silk-road.com/artl/egyptsilk.shtml) They were excellent architects, and for what it is worth, excelled at embalming bodies.
In the time of Moses, the Egyptians did not know about making saddles suitable for horseback riding, cavalry soldiers, or smelting iron ore.
Q: In Acts 7:30 (KJV), what is "Mount Sina"?
A: This is the same as Mount Sinai.
Q: In Acts 7:32 what is unusual about this quote?
A: Stephenís quote of Exodus 3:5 follows the Samaritan Pentateuch, not the Masoretic text or the Septuagint See The Anchor Bible Dictionary vol.5 p. 934 for more info.
Q: In Acts 7:36, did they cross the Red Sea or the Reed Sea?
A: Four points to consider in the answer.
1. The Greek word in both Acts 7:36 and the Septuagint version of Exodus 15:4 is eruthro, which means "red", and not "reed".
2. The Hebrew is like the English without the vowels: "Rd" could be either "Red" or "Reed".
3. Either it was the Red Sea, and Stephen was repeating that.
4. Or else it was the Reed Sea, though the Septuagint Greek translated it as "Red". Stephen, a Greek-speaking Jew, is merely saying what he had learned.
Summary: Either way, the Bible can be inerrantly recording what Stephen said.
Q: In Acts 7:38 (KJV), did they have a church back in Mosesí time?
A: The original meaning of the Greek word for church, ecclesia, is assembly. Stephen here is referring to the Israelites assembly in the Wilderness.
Q: In Acts 7:41-43, was the idolatrous calf a false image of the true God, or was it worship of heavenly beings?
A: Stephen is not explicitly saying the golden calf was worship of heavenly beings. Rather, he mentions the golden calf, and that God turned away from them, and in the centuries they turned to worshipping many various idols, including heavenly beings.
As to the use of the golden calf, it probably was an image to a false god and broke the first commandment. Even it had been made as a graven image to the true God, it still would be sinful and break the second commandment.
Q: In Acts 7:43, who was Moloch and the star Remphan?
A: This was a quote from Amos 5:25-27 in the Septuagint.
Q: In Acts 7:43, should it be "Moloch and Remphan" or "Sakkuth and Kaiwan" as the Masoretic text of Amos 5:26 says?
A: Stephen was a Greek-speaking Jew and he probably was quoting from the Septuagint. Since Acts is merely recording without error what Stephen said, this verse by itself cannot prove which was the original wording in Amos. See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.381-383 for more info and an analysis of the consonants and vowels.
Q: In Acts 7:43, when were they told in the future they would go to Babylon?
A: Deuteronomy 28:64 says that if the Israelites were disobedient, they would be scattered. It did not mention Babylon though. Stephen is paraphrasing from Amos 5:25-27. It would almost be a quote from the Septuagint, except that Amos 5:25-27 says "beyond Damascus" in both the Hebrew and Septuagint, and Stephen said Babylon, which is the exact location beyond Damascus of the exile of the southern Israelites.
Q: In Acts 7:51-53, was Stephen wise to speak strongly against the Jews here?
A: It probably made no difference, as the Jews under Saul of Tarsus had already decided Stephenís fate. Stephenís manner of speaking indicates that his main purpose here was not to try to save his own life, but to save some of his hearers lives, eternally.
Q: In Acts 7:53, how did they receive the law from angels?
A: God used angels in guiding the Israelites with the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. He apparently also used angels to give Moses the original tables of the Ten Commandments.
Q: In Acts 7:55, since Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, why did the Holy Spirit have Stephen say things that got him killed?
A: Two complementary answers:
1. The Holy Spirit sometimes does deliberately lead obedient Christians into situations where they will glorify God and die for their faith.
2. They were going to kill him anyway. Stephen had already been arrested in Acts 6:11-7:1, and they were going to stone him regardless of what he said.
Q: In Acts 7:56 and Mk 16:19, how could Jesus stand at the right hand of God, since Jesus is God?
A: It is not true that God the Father must be left-handed, because Jesus is sitting on His right hand!
Seriously, right hand means a position of honor.
The word "God" in the Bible, when it does not refer to a false god, has multiple meanings. The simplest proof of this is John 1:2 and Hebrews 1:9. In each of these verses, the word God is used two times, and the meanings are obviously the Father and the Son.
The word "God" has three closely related meanings. They are:
God the Father here and in 1 Peter 1:2,3; Ephesians 1:3,17; 3:14; 5:20; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 3:11; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-22; 2:16; Titus 1:4
God the Son in Hebrews 1:8-9; John 1:1,18; 20:28; Hosea 1:7, Isaiah 7:14; 1 John 5:11,12 + 21; Colossians 2:9; Matthew 1:23
God the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:9-16; Luke 1:35; 1 John 4:12,13,15-16; 1 Corinthians 3:16 + 1 Corinthians 6:19; Acts 5:4
The Father is eternal in Psalm 90:2; 93:2.
The Son is eternal in Hebrews 7:3; 13:8
The Spirit is eternal in Hebrews 9:14.
Q: In Acts 8:1, what do we know about Saul of Tarsus here?
A: The Greek says that Saul was a "young man (neanias) and it is guessed that he was about 38 years old. That would be two young to be a member of the Great Council or for many synagogue positions. In stoning, the hands of the witnesses are to be the first to stone him to death in Deuteronomy 17:7. Paul was not one of those, but he watched their clothes. Saul was involved in killing others in Acts 9:1. As Paul, he remembered these things vividly, and wrote about them with regret in Galatians 1:13; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Philippians 3:6; and 1 Timothy 1:13.
Q: In Acts 8:1, was this persecution a good thing?
A: No, it was an evil thing to persecute Christians. However, God used this evil thing for good, as God can use all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Apparently the earliest Christians were slow to obey the great commission in Matthew 28:19 and especially Acts 1:8. Persecution drove them out of Jerusalem and into other places where they were supposed to be evangelizing anyway.
Q: In Acts 8:1, would the Christians have scattered throughout Judea and Samaria if there had not been the persecution?
A: They probably would have spread out at a slower pace than if the persecution had not occurred.
Q: In Acts 8:1, why did Christians flee Jerusalem because of persecution, while the apostles remained?
A: There are two views.
1. According to Hard Sayings of the Bible p.522-523, the persecution was by the Sanhedrin and directed mainly against the Greek-speaking Christians. Christians who were also Aramaic-speaking Jews were not persecuted until later. See also The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.371-372 for more on this view.
2. They did try to persecute the apostles, when they killed James the brother of John, and imprisoned Peter. However, since God protected Peter, they did not try anymore, because of how it would look to the people.
Q: In Acts 8:2, why did devout believers lament over Stephenís death, since Stephen went to be with Jesus?
A: Scripture does not say, but we can see a few reasons.
1. They were sorrowful over this "apparently premature" death of the mighty man of God, and all opportunities for Godís service that were lost because of his death. However, God is in control, and what could appear a premature death may have been a factor in Saul coming to Christ.
2. They might have been lamenting that they would not see Stephen again until Heaven.
3. Even though they knew Stephen would be in Heaven, sometimes it is hard to see things through the eyes of faith when the torn, crumpled body of the beloved friend lay before them under a pile of cold, cruel stones.
Q: In Acts 8:3 (KJV), what does "havock" and "haling" mean?
A: These King James Version words mean "havoc" and "hauling" respectively.
Q: In Acts 8:4, did Philip go to the city called Samaria or a city in the region Samaria?
A: There was both a region and a city within it called Samaria. The literal Greek is "a city of Samaria", so it could be any city in the region of Samaria.
Q: In Acts 8:5-8, 8:26-40, which Philip was this?
A: Scripture does not say whether it was Philip the apostle or the Philip the Greek in Acts 6:1-5 and Acts 21:8-9. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.372, the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1330, the New International Bible Dictionary p.781, and the skeptical Asimovís Guide to the Bible p.1008 all agree that it was Philip the Greek. The NIV Study Bible p.1658 also says this was the same Philip the Greek in Acts 6:5. This would mean the ability to perform many mighty miracles was not limited to the twelve apostles.
On the other hand, the New Bible Dictionary (1962) p.684 mentions that Papias, Polycrates, and Eusebius all viewed Philip the Evangelist in Acts 8:3 and Philip the apostle as the same person.
Q: In Acts 8:9-24, why did Simon try to buy the right to heal people?
A: From Simon Magusí perspective, this would not have appeared so bad. Asimovís Guide to the Bible p.1011 says that the Jewish high priesthood was bought in Seleucid times and under the Romans. In the Middle Ages, some popes fulfilled "papal succession" by buying their office of Pope. Simon Magus was only doing what many other false religious leaders did.
However, from the perspective of God and Peter, Simon Magus did a terrible thing. To purchase what God gives freely, and possibly to charge for dispensing the grace God freely gave, would be an insult to God.
Q: In Acts 8:9-24, what happened to Simon Magus?
A: Scripture does not tell us anything about Simonís eventual repentance or lack of repentance. However, the church writers Justin Martyr, Irenaeus Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Hippolytus tell us Simonís subsequent deeds. (Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John the apostle. Hippolytus was a disciple of Irenaeus.)
Irenaeus in Against Heresies (182-188 A.D.) devoted all of chapter 23 to Simon Magus. He said that Emperor Claudius honored Simon Magus with a statue because of his magic. Irenaeus says that Simon taught that he appeared to the Jews as the Son, to the Samaritans as the Father, and to other nations as the Holy Spirit. Simon freed from slavery a woman from Tyre named Helena, whom Simon said was the first conception of his mind. Simon said this was the same Helen over whom the Trojan War had been fought. Irenaeus says the Simon Magusí successor was the heretic Menander.
Against All Heresies (200-210 A.D) also devotes the first chapter to discussing Simon Magus. Tertullian says that Simon called himself "The Supreme Virtue", and that his successor was Menander.
Tertullian (198-220 A.D.) in A Treatise on the Soul ch.34, that Simon devoted his energies to destroying the truth after Peter rebuked him. He adds that Helen was a woman of Tyre who was a slave in a brothel.
See http://www.BibleQuery.org/history/churchhistory/WhatEarlyChristiansTaught.html for quotes from the other writers.
Q: In Acts 8:15-17, was this a normal experience?
A: No. The delay in believing in Jesus without having the Holy Spirit inside of them was either due to:
1. The apostles coming, or
2. Inadequate teaching by Philip, or
3. Incorrect understanding of what Philip taught.
1001 Bible Questions Answered p.50 also says that this is experience was transitional in the history of the church. See also Hard Sayings of the Bible p.523-525 for more info.
Q: In Acts 8:15-17, why was the Holy Spirit not given to the Samaritans when they first heard the Gospel?
A: Christians have two views.
1. The preaching they heard was incomplete.
2. The preaching was fine, but for this "great transition" of preaching to the Samaritans, it was fitting that some of the apostles were present before the Holy Spirit came to these non-Jews. See 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.50,53 for more on this view.
Q: In Acts 8:27, why would an Ethiopian go to the Jewish Temple?
A: The ancient land called Ethiopia was actually north of modern Ethiopia in modern Sudan. Persia and the Bible p.245-246, The Expositorís Bible Commentary p.649, and the skeptical Asimovís Guide to the Bible mention that after 590 B.C., Jewish mercenaries manned a fort at Elephantine in south Egypt to keep the Nubians from attacking Egypt. Some who came from Ethiopia could have been their descendants.
In addition, the Queen of Sheba visited Jerusalem during Solomonís time (around 960 B.C.). While Sheba was across the Red Sea from Ethiopia, apparently some people from the land of modern-day Ethiopia converted to Judaism at that time, and were still there in the twentieth century. In the tenth century A.D. the northern Ethiopian kingdom of Beni Hamwiyah fought the Christian Ethiopian kingdom south of them.
In summary, this Ethiopian was probably going to the Jewish Temple because he was of the Jewish religion. In addition, it is possible he might have had a bit of Jewish blood in him too.
As a side note, a Roman drawing of the type of carriage that might have been used by Ethiopian Eunuch is in The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.327.
Q: In Acts 8:27, who was Candace?
A: Candace (or Kandake) was a term for the queens of Nubia, much like Pharaoh is a term for the kings of Egypt, and Caesar was a term for the emperors of Rome.
The Expositorís Bible Commentary volume 9 p.363 says that the Ethiopian queens always ruled as regents for their sons, as the son was considered a "child of the sun and therefore too holy to become involved in the secular functions of the state."
Q: In Acts 8:27, why would a eunuch go to worship at Jerusalem, since eunuchs could not enter the Temple according to Dt 23:1?
A: There are three reasonable possibilities:
1. It is not certain that Jews in the time of Jesus excluded eunuchs, as Isaiah 56:3-5 says that God would accept eunuchs too.
2. He could have gone to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, and had others go to the temple for him.
3. He could have gone to Jerusalem unaware of any prohibition against eunuchs.
See The Expositorís Bible Commentary volume 9 p.362-363 for more info.
Q: In Acts 8:28,30, Mt 3:3, 8:17, Jn 1:23, Jn 12:38-39, and Rom 15:12 (KJV), who is Esias?
A: This is the prophet Isaiah.
Q: In Acts 8:36, should a person be baptized when they believe?
A: Once a person believes and understands simply what it means to be a Christian, they should be baptized. There are two issues here: classes before baptism, and baptism of believers versus infants.
1. Some Christians believe a person should be baptized immediately after they believe in Christ, as was the Ethiopian eunuch. Other Christians believe there should be instruction first, and the church in Alexandria took this to extreme by having a two-year catechumen class prior to baptism. Notice that the eunuch was versed in the Scriptures prior to meeting Philip, and though his knowledge was imperfect, it was sufficient to be baptized immediately.
2. This verse does not address the baptism of believers versus infants. All Christians believe that if an adult believes in Christ and has not yet been baptized, they should be baptized. See the discussion on believerís and infant baptism in Colossians 2:11-12 for more info.
Q: In Acts 9:1-2, why would the Jewish priests be so desirous to kill Christians?
A: There are three concurrent reasons.
Primarily a Religious threat: Jesus coming and setting up things in a new way that went against the traditions of the Pharisees was a threat to their religious leadership.
Secondarily Political power: It was at this time that the Romans took something away that was considered very important to the Jewish leaders; the right to execute people for capital crimes. Since the Romans would apparently acquiesce in the killing of Christians, a conjecture is that this would be a way to at least have the appearance of retaining that power.
Spiritually, Satan was at work here. Even today, Satan is wanting to kill worshippers of God.
Q: In Acts 9:3-8, how come this differs from accounts in 22:96-11 and Acts 26:12-18?
A: The accounts differ in three aspects.
Light and Paulís companions
Acts 26:13: The light was around Saul and his companions
Acts 22:13 Saul and his companions all saw a bright light in Acts 22:13.
Acts 9:3 A light from heaven flashed around Saul, but it does not specify what was around his companions or what they saw.
Conclusion: Saul and his companions all saw a bright light that was around them. It does not specify whether the light was around Saul first, or around all of them at the same time, and actually it does not matter.
Voice and Paulís companions
Not the answer: In Acts 22:8-9 Paul might simply have been mistaken about what the men heard, and Scripture faithfully recorded what Paul said. However, Paul probably knew, and Paul was likely NOT mistaken here.
Acts 26:14 Saul of Tarsus (Paul) heard a voice. It does not specify what his companions heard
Acts 22:9 Saulís companions did not hear/understand the voice.
Acts 9:7 Saulís companions heard the sound, but did not see anyone.
Conclusion: There is no difficulty if Saulís companions heard a sound, but did not understand the voice. The word in Acts 22:9 is used 153 times in Lukeís writing. 57 times it means listen to understand, and 7 times is means to obey. This verb in the genitive form tends to mean just hear. In the accusative form, as used in Acts 22:9 it often means listen to understand, though it can just mean hear also.
Posture of Saulís companions
Acts 26:14 Saul and his companions all fell to the ground
Acts 22:6-9 Saul fell to the ground, but it does not specify what his companions did.
Acts 9:7 Saulís companions stood there speechless.
Conclusion: All of them were standing initially. Saul was blinded and fell to the ground. After initially standing speechless, the fear of the voice and the light would easily cause his companions to fall to the ground too.
See The Resurrection of Jesus p.387 for more info.
Q: In Acts 9:4-7, how come Paul heard and saw different things than the others?
A: The other men saw the light and heard the sound, but God only intended for Saul to understand the words.
Q: In Acts 9:5 (KJV), what are "pricks"?
A: This is an ox-goad. An ox-goad is not meant to kill an ox, but meant to be unpleasant enough to get the ox (or other animal) to move the way his master wants him to go.
Q: In Acts 9:11, is there any archaeological evidence for Straight Street in Damascus?
A: Yes. Not only is there archaeological evidence that the street was once flanked by colonnades (Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.418,1627), but the street is in use today. The street goes from the northeast to the southwest and in Paulís time was at least two miles (3.2 km) long.
Q: In Acts 9:15-16, why did God choose Saul of Tarsus as His chosen instrument?
A: This is one of a number of verses that show the Lord works in mysterious ways. While we today all can read the Book of Acts and see that God chose well, this must have looked very strange to Ananias. It is understandable that Ananias, though believing God, asked for confirmation in Acts 9:13-14, and God freely and graciously gave it to Him.
Q: In Acts 9:16, what was the point of telling Ananias how much Saul would suffer for Christís name?
A: Scripture does not say. Ananias should not have felt that Saul of Tarsus got off "easy", because the sufferings he endured likely were more than the sufferings he inflicted on any one person.
Q: In Acts 9:23, who was trying to kill Paul?
A: Acts 9:23 says the Jews were trying to kill Paul. In addition, 2 Corinthians 11:32-33 says that the Roman governor under King Aretus was also trying to arrest Paul.
Q: In Acts 9:26, why were the disciples afraid of Saul, since they should not have been afraid of death?
A: Christians are to be prudent, and Jesus told believers that while persecution was inevitable (John 15:20), believers can flee persecution (Matthew 10:23).
In addition, the disciples might naturally have feared the painful death Saul of Tarsus had given to others.
Q: In Acts 9:27, why was Barnabas not afraid of Saul, even though the others were?
A: Scripture does not say, but we can speculate on three reasons.
Temperament Barnabas was an encouraging kind of guy, and he might have been more willing to trust someone.
Spent time with Paul Barnabas did not just hear rumors that Paul might have changed; he talked with Paul himself and heard Paul debating with others in Damascus.
God showed him If God communicated with Barnabas about Paul, as God did with Ananias, or if God gave Barnabas the confidence, then of course Barnabas would not be afraid.
One point to learn from this is that the God does not always reveal things to the leadership of the church first. Leaders should be willing to learn from other members too.
Q: In Acts 9:31, how did the churches live in the fear of the Lord, and how should we do so today?
A: They had an awe of God and His power. The respected His Word, and the fear of the Lord was a motivation for evangelism and holy living.
Other verses that show a believerís fear of the Lord are Genesis 22:12; Proverbs 1:7; 1 Samuel 12:14; 2 Chronicles 6:33; 19:7; Nehemiah 5:9; Psalm 19:9; 22:25; 33:8; 119:74; 128:1; Ecclesiastes 8:13; 12:13; Isaiah 11:3; Jeremiah 5:22; Micah 6:9; Malachi 3:5, and 2 Corinthians 5:11.
Q: In Acts 9:33, how do you pronounce "Aeneas"?
A: Crudenís Concordance and Strongís Concordance pronounce this "A-ne-as" with the first two vowels long and the third vowel short. The accent is on the first syllable.
In contrast, the King James Version and the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary pronounce is as a-NE-as, placing the accent on the second syllable.
Q: In Acts 9:43 was a tanner an unclean profession for Jews?
A: The Israelites learned this important trade from the Egyptians, though the Syrians practiced this too. The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1241-1242 says that the Jews did not consider tanning a good profession among the Jews of Jesusí time since they had to deal with dead animals to take off the hides. Simon found fellowship among Christians, but he might not have found fellowship among the Jews. The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.726 also says this was a ceremonially unclean profession, and in Joppa the tannerís houses were located on the south, just outside of Joppa on the coast (where the spent chemicals could be disposed).
The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.379 and The Expositorís Bible Commentary volume 9 p.383 also say that rabbis considered tanning an unclean trade.
Q: In Acts 10, what is the main application of these two messages?
A: The message communicated to Simon in Acts 10:1-8 is that the Gospel is from the Jews. In Acts 10:9-23, the message communicated to Peter is that the Gospel is also for the Gentiles.
Q: In Acts 10:2,4,31, what was the relationship between Corneliusí alms and God answering his prayers?
A: Cornelius was an unusual man, being a soldier in an occupying army, and yet he gave money to help the poor in the occupied land. Cornelius saw the truth about God in the Old Testament. Three points to consider in the answer.
1. Corneliusí alms were in no way required to enable the Almighty God to work or to answer his prayers.
2. Corneliusí sincere prayers were heard, just like God hears everyoneís sincere prayers to know Him.
3. It is interesting that both alms and prayers came up before God. It is almost as though the alms were considered as a form of prayer or as strengthening his prayers.
Q: In Acts 10:30-33, How could Luke have written, "Iíve been fasting since Wednesday, when at the ninth hour I was praying in my house, and there appeared a man in bright clothes standing in front of me?" Did Cornelius pray for four days straight right up to the 9th hour (3 pm) when he is taking with Peter? And which day did the man in bright clothes appear? Finally, what is the linguistic justification for translating the APO ... MECRI ... construction in Acts 10:30 as anything other than a "duration" of four days in time? Anything like "four days ago" seems to me to represent merely unsubstantiated linguistic gymnastics.
A: Letís look at the entire three verses: Acts 10:30-32 says, "Cornelius answered, ĎFour days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, ĎCornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.í" (NIV)
Luke is recording what Cornelius said. This was a monumental moment for the church, because this is the moment that the church, and especially Peter, understood clearly that Christ was not sent to the Jews only, but to all the earth. Luke may have heard how this key development happened directly from Peter, or Luke may have learned this from someone else. Luke may have quoted what Cornelius said verbatim, or it is very likely that he paraphrased. That does not matter though; it is the meaning that is important.
When a person speaks, someone else can always find ambiguity if they search long and hard enough, whether there is really ambiguity or not. In other cases, including this one, a personís words a phrase by itself could be taken a couple of different ways, but common sense makes the meaning clear to all the hearers. Here is the sequence of events, in reverse order.
3. Peter came a couple of days after he was sent for (Acts 10:23-24)
2. The man in shining clothes told Cornelius to send for Peter.
1. Before this, Cornelius was praying when the man in shining clothes appeared.
Common sense dictates that "this hour" when Cornelius was praying was the same hour (3 pm) four days ago, not this hour on this day. Otherwise Cornelius would have sent the men for Peter after the men had already left to fetch Peter.
Q: In Acts 10:2,22,44-48, since Cornelius was God-fearing and prayed to God regularly, yet still he was not yet born again until Peterís visit, would Cornelius have gone to Hell if He had died?
A: This is a moot point. If the God we are discussing was either not knowledgeable to know Cornelius would accept Jesus joyfully, or not powerful enough to keep Cornelius alive until this time, then we are not talking about the God of the Bible.
Note that Corneliusí prayers and gifts, prior to hearing about Jesus, were an acceptable memorial to God. This is also true for people who died prior to Jesus who obeyed Godís word in the Old Testament, and Cornelius was respected by the Jews, not for his fear of any god, but for his fear of the true God, their God.
Q: In Acts 12:6, how could Peter sleep so soundly, the night before his execution?
A: People with trouble sleeping sure wish they had what Peter had! Peter had confidence that God was protecting him, and that the words of Jesus would not fail. From John 21:18-19, Peter knew for certain that he would not die until he was old.
We may have no promise as to how long we will live on this earth, but we do have the promise that God will watch over us, and that we will live forever in Heaven. So, sleep well.
Q: In Acts 10:10-16 and Mk 7:17-23, since Jesus said he would not abolish anything in the law in Mt 5:17, why donít Christians follow the Old Testament dietary laws like Muslims [allegedly] do?
A: While neither Christians nor Muslims follow the dietary laws, Christians do not because they listen to Jesus. Five points to consider in the answer.
At this time, Jesusí followers obeyed the Old Testament dietary laws. Jesus actually said that not one jot or tittle would pass away until all is accomplished.
The fact of Jesusí resurrection, fundamentally changed the way God dealt with His children. An angel informed Peter, Jesusí apostle, that God had made all food clean in Acts 10:9-16. Note it does not say these animals were always clean, but rather that God had made them clean.
Even Muslims who bring up this objection, themselves have to agree that some the Old Testament dietary laws are not to be followed. Mohammed taught Muslims that they could eat camel meat (Sahih Muslim vol.1 book 1 no.220 p.70), yet Leviticus 11:3-8 and Deuteronomy 14:6-8 prohibit eating camel.
Listen to Jesus in Matthew 15:10,17-20 and Mark 7:14-15. Jesus said it is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean, not what goes in. Mark 7:19 shows that by this Jesus declared all foods clean. If we call Jesus a prophet, we should listen to His words.
A voice from heaven commanded Peter to eat In Acts 10:10-16, showing him that the dietary laws were only in effect until Jesusí sacrifice, not after. We should obey the voice of Godís angel and Jesusí apostle.
In conclusion, we should not ignore what Godís prophets said, but listen to them.
Q: In Acts 10:20-23, when Peter was commanded not to hesitate to go with the three men, did Peter disobey by questioning them, inviting them into his house, and leaving the next day?
A: Perhaps Peter was not as prompt as possible. On the other hand, if it was late in the day, the only practical thing to do was leave early the next morning rather than try to find a house in the dark. Remember, back then they had no street signs or street lights.
Regardless, Peter definitely intended to go with them. It was not lawful for a Jew to eat with a Gentile, yet after Peter learned his lesson from the vision, he invited the men to eat with him.
It probably took both courage and a direct vision to convince Peter to eat any kind of food. The Jewish skeptic Asimov in Asimovís Guide to the Bible p.1050 points out that in Maccabean times Jews had died under torture rather than eat pork.
Q: In Acts 10:25-26, why did Cornelius try to "worship" Peter?
A: The Greek word here is proskuneo, which means either "worship" or "to fall down in reverence." Either Cornelius, who was not yet instructed in the Christian faith, was confused in trying to worship Peter, or else he was not intending to worship, but to show great respect to the one who would teach him the way to be saved.
Q: In Acts 10:28, was it just non-Jews in general that should not be considered common or unclean, or every single person?
A: In this verse, "no man" means no one in every single person or every race.
Q: In Acts 10:29 (KJV), what does "without gainsaying" mean?
A: This mean without complaining or raising any objections.
Q: In Acts 10:31, does God remember all the righteous things people do?
A: God knows all the righteous (and unrighteous) things we do before we were even born (Psalm 139). However, as far as counting them for getting rewards in heaven; not necessarily. Ezekiel 3:20 gives an example of a righteous man who turned from his righteousness and his righteous acts were not remembered. Also, Paul was concerned lest he drift away and lose the crown he had worked for.
Q: In Acts 10:34-35, how could Peter [allegedly] contradict Jesus in saying God accepts people from every nation who fear God and do righteousness, when Jesus said no one comes to the Father but by Jesus in Jn 14:6? (The Muslim Ahmad Deedat brought this up.)
A: There is no contradiction here. God has children who believe in Him from every nation. There are Arabs, Chinese, Australians, Africans, Europeans, Eskimos, and Chileans and Argentines who believe in Jesus. Whatever your people group, from Ababda to Zuni, Jesus is for you.
No one comes to the Father except through Jesus. Even people like the patriarch Abraham, who died before hearing the name Jesus, only go to the Father in heaven through Jesus. In John 8 Jesus said that Abraham saw [in the future] Jesusí day and was glad.
There are three points to remember:
1) Not everyone who has gone to heaven, has heard the name of Jesus before they died, such was the those who followed God in the Old Testament and prior to heaving of Jesus.
2) All who put their trust in the true God go to Heaven through Jesus.
3) Those who reject Jesus in this life, (and never repent) have rejected the only way they could have gone to Heaven.
Q: In Acts 10:38, how was God with Jesus, since Jesus is God?
A: On earth, Jesus voluntarily emptied Himself of His glory and temporarily gave up the use of His attributes of deity. However, the Father and Holy Spirit showed that they were with Jesus. They showed this at His baptism and by Jesusí miracles. See the discussion on Acts 7:56 for more info.
Q: In Acts 10:45-48, is water baptism essential to be saved?
A: No. Four points to consider in the answer.
1. They spoke in tongues prior to being baptized with water.
2. Speaking in tongues is a sign (but not the only sign) of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
3. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is only for those who are born again,
4. Those who are born again are saved.
So, they were born again prior to being baptized with water. See the discussion on Acts 22:16 for a second example of being saved prior to water baptism. See also the next question for more info.
Q: In Acts 10:45-48, because this passage was a very special occurrence, does this negate using this passage to show water baptism is not essential for salvation?
A: No. This passage does describe an important transition for the church, but that does not disqualify us from understanding all of its teaching. Three points to consider in the answer.
1. Gentiles could be filled with the Holy Spirit, and thus be saved, prior to baptism at this time. This was not impossible for God to do and still be true to His word.
2. Thus, it is possible for people to be saved, prior to baptism at other times, without God breaking His word.
3. If a personís interpretation of the Bible requires that God cannot be true to His word if anyone after Christ is saved prior to being baptized, then consider that their interpretation, and not Godís word, is wrong.
Q: In Acts 10:48 and Acts 2:38, since people are baptized in the name of Jesus, since people are baptized in the name (singular) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Mt 28:19, does that mean the three are all Jesus, as Oneness Pentecostalism teaches?
A: No. It was Jesus, not the Father or Holy Spirit, who commanded Christians to be baptized. "In his name", also means by the authority of Jesus, as the Believerís Bible Commentary p.1608 says. See The Complete Book of Bible Answers p.211-212, When Cultists Ask p.196-197, and 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.120-121 for more info.
Q: In Acts 11:1-3, were the men correct in contending with Peter the apostle?
A: They were correct in one way, and incorrect in a greater way.
Correct: They were correct to question what any Christian was doing, even Peter, when they thought it did not line up with Scripture. Also, Paul corrected Peter in Galatians 2:11-21.
Incorrect: Their scriptural understanding was incorrect. Furthermore, after the Council of Jerusalem settled the issue with all of the living apostles, some of these people continued to cause division, because they would not allow themselves to be corrected by others.
Q: In Acts 11:3, were the apostles obedient to Jesusí command in Matthew 28:19 and Acts 1:8 to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth?
A: The apostles were not sinless, and it does not appear they were actively obeying this. The reason might have been their hang-up about associating with non-Jews. Unfortunately, sometimes Christians today can let their hang-ups keep them from fully obeying God, too. See the discussion on Acts 8:1 for how God apparently dealt with that situation.
Q: In Acts 11:14, was Cornelius saved prior to sending for Peter?
A: This passage shows that he was not. However, by Godís grace, Cornelius sought God and sent for Peter. See 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.91 for more info.
Q: In Acts 11:19, why were they preaching only to the Jews?
A: At that time there was disagreement on whether a Gentile could become a Christian without becoming a Jew first. Even after that disagreement was settled at the Council at Jerusalem in Acts 15, Paul still had the practice of preaching the Gospel to the Jews first, and only afterward to the Gentiles. Read Acts 18:6 for an example.
Q: In Acts 11:26, what is the significance of the term "Christians" being first used at Antioch?
A: Two points to consider in the answer.
Derision: Other people perhaps first called them Christians as a form of ridicule. At that time there were people who were very devoted to the worship of Caesar, and they were called Caesareans. 1 Peter 4:15 says that if you are insulted because of the named of Christ you are blessed. In 1 Peter 4:16 mentions suffering as a "Christian".
Honor: The believers accepted the word "Christian" as a badge of honor. Christ is the only name under which people can be saved.
Christian was a precious name for the early followers of Christ. It was the name we are to use for ourselves according to 42 early Christian writers prior to 325 A.D. See http://www.BibleQuery.org/History/ChurchHistory/WhatEarlyChristiansTaught.html for quotes from each one.
Q: In Acts 11:28 (KJV), what is a "dearth"?
A: This word means a shortage, and this refers to a shortage of food due to famine.
Q: In Acts 11:28, Acts 14:17, and 2 Cor 8-9, what evidence is there of a famine throughout all the world in the time of Claudius (41-54 A.D.)?
A: Christians have two views.
1. The Greek word for world/land here, oikoumene. It does not necessary mean the entire planet or world, like the Greek word cosmos. Rather the famine was over Judea.
2. Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews 15.9.1-2 (c.93-94 A.D.) mentions a famine in Judea in 44/46-47/48 A.D.. This famine was caused by drought, and there was disease after the famine occurred.
3. As further evidence, Paul collected an offering from the churches in Greece (where presumably there was no famine) to send back to Palestine in 1 Corinthians 16:2-3 and 2 Corinthians 8:1-4, 13-15, 18-21.
Famine Over the Whole Roman Empire
The Greek phrase here was commonly used by the Romans to refer to the entire Roman world. There was no single famine that affected the entire Roman Empire at the same time. However The Expositorís Bible Commentary volume 9 p.403-404, says that the historians Suetonius (Life of Claudius 18:2), Tacitus (Annals 12:43), Dio Cassius (History of Rome 60:11), And Orosius (History 7.6.17) mention several famines during the reign of Claudius.
Q: In Acts 12:1-2, is this the same Herod who reigned when Jesus was crucified?
A: No. That was neither Herod the Great nor Herod Antipas, but another Herod, called Herod Agrippa, who reigned from 41-44 A.D.
Q: In Acts 12:4 (KJV), what is a quaternion?
A: This was four groups of soldiers, and each group had four soldiers in it, for a total of sixteen soldiers.
Q: In Acts 12:15, why did they think "Peterís angel" appeared at the door?
A: There are two views.
1. The simplest view is that they thought Peter had been killed, and it was Peterís spirit.
2. However, they could have used other terms, such as "his spirit", rather than "his ghost". As Hard Sayings of the Bible p.526-527 points out, they might have believed that since people have guardian angels, it was his guardian angel, which looked like Peter. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.385 for more on this view.
Regardless, these were the beliefs of young Christians in that house. The Bible shows they were wrong here, because it was Peter himself who appeared.
Q: In Acts 12:23, how was Herod eaten with worms?
A: This probably refers to him dying from having too many parasites in his intestines. As a side note, this is not something that would often happen to obedient Jews who never ate any unclean animals.
Q: In Acts 12:23, what is extra-Biblical evidence of Herod suddenly dying of worms?
A: The Jewish writer Josephus records the following in Antiquities of the Jews 19.8.2. (c.93-94 A.D.)
"When Agrippa had reigned three full years over all Judea, he came to the city of
Caesarea, which was formerly called Stratoís Tower. There he exhibited shows in honour of Caesar, inaugurating this as a festival for the emperorís welfare. And there came together to it a multitude of the provincial officials and of those who had been promoted to a distinguished position. On the second day of the show he put on a robe all made of silver, of altogether wonderful weaving, and arrived in the theatre at the break of day. Then the silver shone as the sunís first rays fell upon it and glittered wonderfully, its resplendence inspiring a sort of fear and trembling in those who gazed upon it. Immediately his flatterers called out from various quarters, in words which in truth were not for his good, addressing him as a god, and invoking him with the cry, ĎBe propitious! If hitherto we have revered thee as a human being, yet henceforth we confess thee to be superior to mortal nature.í
The king did not rebuke them, nor did he repudiate their impious flattery. But looking up soon afterwards he saw the owl sitting on a rope above his head, and immediately recognized it as a messenger of evil as it had formerly been a messenger of good, and a pang of grief pierced his heart. There came also a severe pain in his belly, beginning with a violent attack... So he was carried quickly into the palace and the news sped abroad among all that he would certainly die before long.... And when he had suffered continuously for five days from the pain in his belly, he departed this life in the fifty-fourth year of his age and the seventh of his reign."
Taken from the New Testament Documents : Are They Reliable 5th edition p.105. F.F. Bruce points out that though Josephus and Acts are similar, the differences are great enough so show that Luke could not have just copied from Josephus or vice versa.
Q: In Acts 13:1, was Simon/Simeon Niger from the land of the country of Niger?
A: No. the country did not exist then, and niger is simply the Latin word for black.
Q: In Acts 13:1, the word "niger" means black, so was Simon Niger a black person?
A: He could have been. However, as Mr. White or Mrs. Green can tell you, surnames do not necessarily denote skin color. However, The NIV Study Bible says this surname could indicate his dark complexion.
Q: In Acts 13:1, could Lucius of Cyrene be the same as Luke, the author of Luke and Acts?
A: Most likely not. While Luke was a shortened form of Lucius (as well as Lucanus), nothing indicates that Lucius and Luke were the same person.
Q: In Acts 13:6, why was the sorcerer called Bar-Jesus?
A: Bar-Jesus means "son of Jesus". Perhaps his father had been named Jesus/Joshua. Allegorically speaking, cults today can be said to try to be "sons of Jesus". They claim to be compatible with Christianity, plus they claim to be "new and improved" versions of what Jesus taught.
Q: In Acts 13:6-13, what extra-Biblical evidence exists for Sergius Paulus?
A: There are two sources.
1. An inscription at Soli (now Karavastasi) on the northern coast of Cyprus mentions the proconsul Paulos. (Inscriptiones Graecae ad res Romanas pertinentes, 3:930). An inscription in Pisidian Antioch of L. Sergius Paullus, a propraetor of Galatia in 72-74 A.D. was probably his son. (See W.M. Ramsay The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, 1914 chapter 12). See also The New Bible Dictionary (IVP) for more info.
2. The early Christian writer Tertullian (198-220 A.D.) in On Idolatry ch.9 p.66 mentions that the magician who served Sergius Paulus lost the use of his eyes.
Q: In Acts 13:7, what was the difference between a procurator and a proconsul?
A: Most provinces were under the Emperor, but a few, including Cyprus were under the Senate. To govern the provinces, procurators were appointed by the Roman Emperor; while the Roman Senate appointed proconsuls. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.388 and The NIV Study Bible p.1670 for more info.
This used to be a major Bible difficulty. If Cyprus was an imperial province, Luke would be wrong to use the word "proconsul"; it would seem he should have used the word "procurator". However, as Bible Difficulties Answered p.29-30 points out, it was discovered that the Emperor and Senate had made a "swap", and at this time Cyprus was under the Senate, and Luke indeed used the correct word. Someone might not have know of this swap unless the lived at or near this time.Also, as the answer to the previous question stated, an inscription has been found of the "proconsul" Paulus.
Q: In Acts 13:7-9, did Saul of Tarsus perhaps take his new, Roman name from Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of Paphos?
A: This is the first time the name "Paul" was used for Saul of Tarsus, and so the Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.5 p.562 claims that he might have. However, there is no other support for that speculation.
Q: In Acts 13:9-11, why did Saul rebuke Elymas so sharply?
A: There is a time and a place for sharp rebuke, and this was it. Elymas had not only deliberately chosen to reject the truth himself, but he was actively trying to turn others away from the truth. In 1 Thessalonians 2:16, Paul speaks of those who actively opposed Godís message.
In 2 Peter 2:20-21, Peter speaks of some people for whom it would have been better for them not to know the truth than to know it and reject it. Today we should differentiate between four kinds of people.
1. Some are likely to want to know the truth and to follow it. They should be taught.
2. Some, like in 2 Peter 2:20-21, will reject the truth that you give them. Giving them more can be like throwing pearls before swine. A question I like to ask people in Rev. Moonís Unification church is this: if somehow you learned for certain that Rev. Moon was not from God, what would you do? Would you still follow him anyway, or would you seek the truth, whatever it may be?" I have asked a number of people, and I have only received an answer, "that they would follow the truth" once.
3. Some, like Elymas, not only reject the truth, but try to turn others away. It was a further manifestation of the truthfulness of Godís words that Elymas was made blind. This is done not so much to help Elymas, as to authenticate the truth for Sergius Paulus and others.
4. Newly acquainted: we do not know which category they are in.
Q: In Acts 13:11, what kind of mist fell on Elymas?
A: This does not mean water rained on Elymas, but rather his eyesight was clouding over, as though in a mist.
Q: In Acts 13:19, who were the seven nations of Canaan that the Israelites conquered?
A: When Paul was speaking, he was apparently thinking of (alphabetically) the Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, Hittites, Hivites, Jebusites, and Perizzites. Deuteronomy 7:1, Joshua 3:10, and Joshua 24:11 have these seven in a different order, so there is nothing special about the order.
The nations sort of blended together, as there were many small city states. Exodus 3:8; 3:17; Exodus 23:23; Deuteronomy 20:17, Joshua 12:8, and Judges 3:5 mention six nations, with each of the six verses leaving out the Girgashites. Exodus 13:5 mentions only five nations, leaving out the Girgashites and Perizzites. 1 Kings 9:20 and 2 Chronicles also mention five nations, leaving out the Girgashites and Canaanites.
See the discussion on Deuteronomy 7:1 for more info on the nations that lived in Canaan prior to the Israelites.
Q: In Acts 13:19 (KJV), where is "Chanaan"?
A: This King James Version word should be "Canaan".
Q: In Acts 13:20, what do "about 450 years before Joshua to Samuel" mean to Old Testament dating?
A: This is similar to 1 Kings 6:1 says that Solomon built the temple in the 480th year after the Israelites had come out of Egypt. Archaeologists are reasonably certain Solomonís temple was completed in October/November 960 B.C. (Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1673). This would make the Exodus about 1440 B.C. Since Samuel died about 30 years before Solomonís Temple, this would be about 990 B.C..
The date of 1440 (or 1447/6 B.C.) for the Exodus is important, because in the early Twentieth Century many held a date of the Exodus of over a hundred years later. However, the later date does not line up so well with archaeological evidence.
Q: In Acts 13:22, how could David be a man after Godís own heart, since David sinned with Bathsheba and Uriah?
A: Davidís sin was horrible. The wonderful news is that David repented, and God accepted His repentance. Of course there was discipline and consequences: the child died, the sword did not depart from Davidís house, and Davidís beloved sons, Amnon and Abimelech both died violently. Abimelech killed Amnon. Abimelech was killed after David sent his army to put down Abimelechís revolt.
All of these negative things are still small compared to the fact that God mercifully forgave David. Not only did God forgive David, but God both "forgives and forgets". While God does not "lose information", God chooses to view David as though those sins were never committed.
It should be obvious to all that when David, Solomon, Abraham, or others committed some sin, Christians have no need to follow their bad example. God does not call us to sin as they did. However, when Jesus set an example to do something, I do believe in following His example.
Q: In Acts 13:30, how did God raise Jesus from the dead, since Jesus is God?
A: This is a repeat of the answer for Galatians 1:1.
Even humans can work together jointly. The three in the Trinity worked together even more in this wonderful miracle. Here is what scripture says.
1. The Father was involved. (1 Thessalonians 1:10; Acts 3:26)
2. Jesus was involved in raising Himself. (John 2:19-21; 10:18)
3. The Spirit was involved. (Romans 8:11)
4. God did. Acts (17:31; 2:32; 3:10; Hebrews 13:20)
5. Father and/or Spirit. (2 Corinthians 4:14)
Q: In Acts 13:32-33, the skeptic Bart Ehrman writers, "In this text the Ďdayí Jesus became begotten as Godís son was the day of resurrection." Then Ehrman asks how that is reconciled with Jesus being begotten in Luke 3:22. (Jesus, Interrupted p.95)
A: It is generally agreed that both passages are by Luke, and Luke certainly did not see any problem here. It would appear that Ehrman did not read either Luke or Acts very carefully. Three points to consider in the answer.
a) Luke 3:22 does not say Jesus was begotten at His baptism, and neither does it say Jesus became Godís Son at His baptism. Rather, the Father gave the recognition that You are my Son, without specifying when this occurred.
b) Likewise Acts 13:32-33 does not say Jesus became Godís son at His resurrection either. It quotes Psalm 2, without specifying when, and then moves on to the demonstration of Jesusí credentials by His resurrection.
c) So Ehrman is wrong about when Jesus became the Son of God, but when exactly did Jesus become the Son of God? According to Christianity Jesus was the Son of God in two distinct senses. First, he was always the Son of God, before time began. Second, the Father was the closest thing to a biological Father Jesus had, though Jesusí body was not the product of a sexual relationship.
Q: In Acts 13:48, what is this verse saying about election?
A: This verse is merely saying that when Paul spoke to this particular crowd, all the elect (people who would go to Heaven) in the crowd believed at that time.
Q: In Acts 13:52, if the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit, should Christians today be this way?
A: Yes. Perhaps it was easier back then, with the apostles around, and Jesusí resurrection only a few years prior, but Paulís command in Philippians 3:1 is as much a command today as it was in his time. Now Thatís a Good Question p.71-72 points out that we should not idealize the early church. They had significant problems too, as 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, and the seven churches in the book of Revelation show.
Q: In Acts 14:12-14, why would the Lystrans think Paul and Barnabas were Zeus and Hermes?
A: There is a myth recorded in the eighth book of Ovidís Metamorphoses (lines 626 ff.) that Zeus and Hermes came to Lystra unrecognized, and visited an elderly couple named Philemon and Baucis. They shared their home, while nobody else would. Zeus and Hermes destroyed the other houses, but changed theirs into a temple with marble columns and a golden roof.
F.F. Bruce in The New Testament Documents : Are They Reliable? 5th edition p.96 says that an inscription at Sedasa near Lystra (c.250 A.D.) records the dedication to Zeus of a statue of Hermes by men with Lycaonian names.
Clement of Alexandria (193-217/220 A.D.) in Exhortation to the Heathen ch.4 p.186 gives a number of other examples of people being called gods or even a specific god. He says that Ceux, son of Eolus, was called Zeus by his wife Alcyone. Her husband called her Hera. Ptolemy IV was called Dionysius. Alexander wanted to be considered a son of the Egyptian god Ammon, and have horns on his statues. Menecraetes the doctor took the name of Zeus. The grammarian Alexarchus wanted to be known as the sun-god. Nocagors of Zela was called Hermes and used to dress as Hermes. He also cites various other people who were worshiped as god.
See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.391-392 and the Geneva Study Bible p.1737 for more info.
Q: In Acts 14:14, why did Paul and Barnabas tear their clothes?
A: There are three views.
1. This was their way to try to show the Lystrans that they had on ordinary clothes and they were just ordinary men.
2. It was a normal sign or grief of distress, according to the New Geneva Study Bible p.1737, or of protest and sorrow as the Believerís Bible Commentary p.1625 says.
3. It was a Jewish custom to tear their robes when they heard blasphemy. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.392 teaches this view, and adds that the rips were made four to five inches into the neckline of the clothes. The person would still be modestly dressed, but the clothes would be ruined after that.
Q: In Acts 14:19, how come the Jews persuaded the Lystrans to stone Paul, since just previously they had wanted to worship him as a god?
A: This illustrates fickleness at its most extreme. Perhaps the Lystran perspective was like this.
Some Lystrans wanted to worship Paul and Barnabas as gods. A second group might have wondered if they were imposters.
1. For the first group, Paul and Barnabas made them look foolish.
2. For the second group, they did not want imposter gods.
3. For all Lystrans, Paul and Barnabas advocated turning from their traditional idol worship to follow a "new" God, for whom they could not make idols.
4. Idol priests who made money from sacrifices would not want to hear this.
5. Idol worshippers who were basically told that their past offerings were money that was wasted, would not want to hear this.
Sadly, it is often more comfortable to believe a lie, when the truth involves admitting that you were wrong in the past and wasted your resources and money.
Q: In Acts 14:23, why did they fast at that time?
A: In combination with their prayers, they fasted to ask God for direction in ordaining elders.
Q: In Acts 14:27 (KJV), why were they "rehearsing"?
A: In the King James Version, this word means they were recounting to the others what had happened. Williams translation says "in detail reported to them".
Q: In Acts 15:1, was Peter one of the men who came to Antioch, as Asimovís Guide to the Bible (p.1049) says it might have been?
A: Is it remotely possible Peter might have come. However, if a "delegation" came to Antioch, and the delegation represented the apostles, it is unlikely that Peter came.
Q: In Acts 15:1-29, was Peter the "Pope" of the first church council, as some Roman Catholics would like to say?
A: No. Peter was a leader in this church council but not the sole leader. In support of this is the following.
1. The dispute was brought before the apostles and others in Acts 15:4,6.
2. Peter spoke in Acts 15:7-11, but others spoke too in Acts 15:1; Acts 15:2; Acts 15:5.
3. Peter did not have the last word, Paul and Barnabas (supporting Peter) spoke next in Acts 15:12
4. The very last word was given by James, who gave his "judgment" in Acts 5:13-21.
5. The letter that was sent out was not sent out as a "papal bull", or even by Peterís authority (Acts 15:22-29). Rather, it was sent out by the authority of all the apostles and elders.
See When Cultists Ask p.200-201 for more info.
Q: In Acts 15:5, when these Pharisees became Christians, why did God not set them straight on circumcision and the Old Testament Law?
A: Scripture does not say, and God has the prerogative to reveal as much or as little as He wishes. For those who do not learn something God that has revealed already, God has the prerogative to "repeat it until they get it" or to refrain from doing so.
While no attempt is made here to explain exactly why God does everything He does, in this case we can make some observations that provide a reasonable answer as to why God does not immediately correct all errors of all professing Christians.
Being connected to Christ, as a branch is to a vine (John 15) is apparently more important in Godís eyes more than us always having the correct answer. If a person is not connected, the main problem is not their wrong answers but the fact that they are not connected.
We were made to need each other in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:17-19,21-26). Each believer has something to contribute to the body, and each believer lacks something that they can only get by being connected to each other.
A temptation Christians have is to let opinions on secondary issues become so important to us, that we fail to obey Godís command to love others and to work together. For whatever reason, God has not removed this or other temptations. It is always possible, if we let this happen, for secondary doctrinal issues to make a shipwreck of our faith, our collective witness, and our unity among other true Christians.
Unity in Christ despite our different opinions is a challenge God has given us. With one heart and mouth we (still) are to glorify God (Romans 15:5-6). Unity would be much easier if all Christians had identical opinions. Given that we do not, Christís prayer was that we would still be one (John 17:21-23). The Bible never says we are to create a unity that is not there. Rather, Ephesians 4:3 says we have the responsibility to "preserve the unity of the Spirit." There were differences of doctrine among believers in Romans 14. Paul accepted believers who believed both ways on those secondary issues, and we should accept other believers just as Christ accepted them (Romans 15:7).
Timing and priorities are often different with God than with us. We may want others to be corrected on a particular detail immediately, while God wants the person to work on other areas first.
Summary: Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1). God is more concerned with those who know the primary truth of the gospel obeying him, loving others, and having unity with other true Christians, and with us being correct on all secondary issues.
Q: In Acts 15:9 how are our hearts purified by faith?
A: God pronounced His people purified in his sight when Jesus died for us on the cross. However, we need to experience purification in this life. By Godís grace through our faith, not only did God save and justify us, but God is making us pure and sanctifying us.
While no one except Jesus will have a sinlessly pure heart until we get to heaven, we are to be undergoing the process of purification now on earth. Purification is not something we can do alone, but something God does to us as we submit to Him. Purification occurs not when we focus on the sin repeating "I am not going to do that, I am not going to do that, etc." but rather by faith when we fix our eyes upon Jesus as Colossians 3:1-4 urges us to do. It is significant that the beautiful picture in Colossians 3:1-4 is almost a preparation for a battle (actually a fight to the death) against our sinful nature in Colossians 3:5-10.
Q: In Acts 15:16, what is the tabernacle of David?
A: The NIV translates this as "rebuild Davidís fallen tent." Just like we would refer to the house of so-and-so when speaking of their family, more nomadic cultures would refer to tents. This verse is a reminder of Godís promise about Davidís family line. The point of quoting this was in the next verse, about the Gentiles who would bear Godís name. See 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.133-134 for more info.
Q: In Acts 15:20, are blood transfusions wrong?
A: No, Scripture does not say this. They did not have the concept of blood transfusions then. They were not introducing any new rules, but the meaning of their terse statements "abstaining from blood" clearly meant that they taught the Old Testament regulations about eating blood were still valid. Receiving your own blood in a transfusion is not cannibalism against yourself, and receiving a blood transfusion from someone else is not cannibalism either, as nothing is "eaten". See When Cultists Ask p.201-202 for more info, and When Critics Ask p.433-435 for a more extensive discussion.
Q: In Acts 15:28, since it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, why was it relevant whether or not it seemed good to them also?
A: This indicates they knew it was what the Holy Spirit wanted. While they would not want to go against the Holy Spirit, is would not do for the Holy Spirit to want them to obey and do something and nobody know what was wanted.
Likewise, today God knows what is good or not. However, we still need our judgment to discern what is best from Godís perspective.
Q: In Acts 15:29, are these commands still valid for Christians today?
A: Christians agree the commands on sexual immorality have not changed, but they disagree on the commands on food sacrificed to idols, blood, and the meat of strangled animals. All agree that the letter from the apostles was binding on all Christians at that time, and keeping these would not give offense to Jewish people (both Christian and non-Christian).
1. Some genuine Christians see that as this letter was from the apostles, and they never said it was only for a period of time, so all of these are binding today. This is generally the way Christians in the second and third centuries viewed these commands. This is my view too.
For example, The Octavius of Minucius Felix (c.210 A.D.) ch.30 p.192 says that Christians did not even use blood of eatable animals in their food. Other pre-Nicene Christians who said that Christians did not partake of blood were Justin Martyr (150 A.D.), Christians of Vienna and Lugdunum (177 A.D.), Clement of Alexandria (193-217/220 A.D.), Tertullian (198-220 A.D.), and Lactantius (c.303-c.325 A.D.)
2. See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.527-530 for the view that the sexual restrictions are binding, and the dietary restrictions are subject to the conscience of ourselves and the people we are not wanting to stumble. While the letter was binding at that time, the absolute ban on meat sacrificed to idols was later said to be a matter of conscience by Paul.
Q: In Acts 16:1, is this the same person as the recipient of the books of 1 and 2 Timothy?
Q: In Acts 16:1-5, why did Paul and Silas circumcise Timothy after affirming that gentiles did not need to be circumcised?
A: Paul knew Timothy did not need to be circumcised, but this "elective circumcision" was to placate the Jews. This is really three questions: why did Paul do it, was Paul correct to do it, and today what principles should we follow.
1. Why did Paul circumcise Timothy?
Paul did it to mollify the Jews who knew Timothy was not circumcised like a Jew should be. Paul wanted to remove a stumbling block to the Jews accepting the gospel. Within reason, we are to be all things to all men in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. For a second example, Paul would even stop eating certain meat if it meant not causing a person to fall in 1 Corinthians 8:13 and Romans 14:20-21.
2. Should Paul have circumcised Timothy?
Paul was an apostle, but that does not mean he never had an error in judgment. Yes, I am sure it mollified the Jews, but at a cost. Many Jews never got the message that the gospel superseded the law, and we were no longer under law but under grace. Many Jews came into the church as "Judaizers", and never got the message straight. Acts 16:1-5 says this was at Lystra near Derbe and Iconium. All these towns are in Galatia, and there were problems with them turning back to the law according to the Book of Galatians. Though Paul earlier had circumcised Timothy in Galatia simply to placate the Jews, later ended up telling the Galatians "Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all." (Galatians 5:2)
3. What principles can we learn from this and follow today?
3.1 Yes we should compromise and follow the principle of being all things to all men, but we should not neglect the higher principle of not compromising the message. Circumcising Timothy might have made evangelism appear easier, but at a cost of non-believers getting in the church and young Christians being confused. Likewise we can appear more effective in evangelism if we never talk about Hell or the lordship of Christ. But is watering down the gospel really what obedient ambassadors want to do?
3.2 When you want to make a compromise to make it easier to share the gospel, ask yourself why. If it is not related to the gospel, then go ahead and make it. If it directly relates to the gospel then do not make it. If it indirectly relates to the gospel, such as food will get you closer or farther from God, then see the next point.
3.3 There is a better way to make a compromise in Romans 14:15-16. Do not do the activity that causes your brother to stumble, but on the other hand do not allow it to be spoken of as evil.
3.4 Even leaders such as Peter and Paul can mess up and make bad decisions. These decisions can so bad that they can have consequences that can confuse new Christians. We should show the leaders their errors, and we can broadcast the correction to the extent of the people who have been misled by the problem, as Paul did with Peter in Galatians 1. However, as long as they do not do things that disqualify them from office they are still our leaders. If you think any Christian leader is perfect, that just means you do not know that Christian leader very well. None of us are perfect, and we should all be struggling to be more Christ-like.
Q: In Acts 16:3, was it right for Paul to circumcise Timothy, just for othersí approval, since 1 Cor 7:18-19, says circumcision is nothing, and Gal 5:2-3 says we should not get circumcised
A: There are five different views.
a) Different issue: Paul and Timothy never believed circumcision would justify Timothy. It was not done for religious reasons, but it was done so as not to give offense to the Jews. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.398 for more info.
b) An earlier time: Paul circumcised Timothy long before writing 1 Corinthians and Galatians. God apparently had not yet revealed to Paul that Christians should not be circumcised for religious reasons. God does not expect someone to obey a command God has not yet given.
c) Paul was inconsistent: Paul made a mistake by circumcising Timothy, because it gave the appearance to the Jews of being for religious reasons. After Paul later realized his mistake, he wrote 1 Corinthians 7:18-19 and Galatians 5:2-3. Paul specifically mentioned not circumcising Titus in Galatians 2:3.
It should come as no surprise that the apostles were not perfect. Peter made a somewhat similar mistake in not eating with Gentiles in Galatians 2:11-14.
d) Not to stumble others: Paul circumcised Timothy earlier because he did not want to stumble weaker brethren, as in Romans 14. However, as R.C. Sproul points out in Now Thatís a Good Question p.588-589, when the "weaker brothers" become so strong that they tyrannize the church, Paul had to respond to this threat of legalism.
e) Timothy would be considered a Jew because his mother was a Jew. Furthermore, the verb tense indicates his father was dead. Since Paulís method was to go to the synagogue first, that would be hard to do if word was out that Timothy was never circumcised. This interesting view is from Hard Sayings of the Bible p.530-531. While When Critics Ask p.435 acknowledges that Paul might have made a mistake, it differentiates between circumcision being necessary for salvation (which Paul never implied), and it being helpful to evangelism.
Q: In Acts 16:6, how did the Holy Spirit keep Paul and his companions out of the Roman province of Asia?
A: There is no evidence of force or coercion. Paul and his companions were obedient to God, and most likely the Holy Spirit did not allow them to have peace about going into Asia, or else the Holy Spirit simply told them not to go. Haleyís Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible p.370-371 adds that this prohibition was only until the fitting time arrived. Alternately, some think that sickness was the means the Holy Spirit used to keep Paul from there. See When Critics Ask p.435 for more info.
Q: In Acts 16:9, was the man in the vision Luke?
A: No. The NIV Study Bible p.1676 says there is no indication that it was. On the contrary, in Acts 16:11, Luke uses the pronoun "we" when speaking of Paul and his companions going to Europe for the first time.
Q: In Acts 16:14, why did Lydia need to have her heart opened to respond to Paulís message, since she already worshipped God?
A: We all need our hearts open to respond to the Gospel. The Holy Spirit works in people according to John 16:8-11. None, and that includes those who are naturally the best among men, seek God on their own, as Romans 3:10 indicates. Acts 16:14 simply records the marvelous news that the Holy Spirit worked in Lydia so that she would accept the Gospel. While there is no hint of coercion on Godís part, the work of the Holy Spirit is essential for someone to become born again.
Q: Does Acts 16:15 support infant baptism?
A: No. See the discussion on 1 Corinthians 1:16 for the answer.
Q: In Acts 16:16-18, why was Paul troubled by the possessed slave girl saying they were from God?
A: Scripture does not say. However two theories are:
1. She spoke in a style that would drive people away.
2. She was saying this in a positive way, so that after Paul left, they would believe the demon-possessed girl was one of them and follow her teaching later.
Q: In Acts 16:26-28, is there any extra-Biblical evidence for this earthquake?
A: No. However:
1. There were frequent earthquakes in this mountainous region of northern Greece and Macedonia. Here are some major earthquakes in this region. (In ancient times, reporting was very spotty.)
403 A.D. Constantinople (Chrysostom exiled)
856 A.D. Corinth, Greece 45,000 dead
1858 Corinth, Greece
1928 Corinth, Greece
3/18/1953 NW Turkey 1,200 dead 7.2 Richter Scale
7/26/1963 Skopje, Yugoslavia 1,100 dead 6.0 on the Richter Scale
As for minor quakes, the Encyclopedia Britannica reports for Greece and Turkey that:
Between 1902 and 1946 there were 58 quakes
Between 1947 and 1966 there were 82 quakes
Between 1967 and 1976 there were 45 quakes
Between 1977 and 1981 there were 9 quakes
2. But this was no ordinary earthquake. The building stood, but the chains miraculously broke off.
Q: In Acts 17:1-3, since Paul preached on the Sabbath, does that mean the Sabbath is still valid today?
A: This verse does not address that question. The Jews met on the Sabbath, and if Paul was going to preach to them in their synagogue, he would preach on the Sabbath.
As to whether the Sabbath is still valid today, Paul gave an answer in Romans 14:5-23 and Colossians 2:16. Also, Hebrews 8:13 says the Old Covenant is obsolete. See When Cultists Ask p.202-203 for more info.
Q: In Acts 17:4 did churches consist of Jews as well as non-Jewish Greeks or [implicitly] just former idol worshippers (1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 12:2; Galatians 2:8). Here is what Ehrman writes in Jesus, Interrupted p.58. "Were the congregations that Paul established made up of both Jews and gentiles? According to the book of Acts, the answer is clearly yes. When Paul preaches in Thessalonica, Jews in the synagogue come to faith in Christ, as do non-Jewish Greeks (Acts 17:4). Paul indicates just the opposite. When he writes to this church in Thessalonica, he recalls how he converted them to faith in Christ and speaks of how they Ďturned to God from idolsí (1 Thessalonians 1:9). Only pagans worshiped idols. Paulís converts in both Thessalonica and Corinth (1 Corinthians 12:2) were former pagans. That is why he calls himself the Ďapostle to the gentiles.í There were other missionaries, in particular Peter, who were in charge of taking the message to the Jews (Galatians 2:8). The Thessalonian and Corinthian churches were made up of gentiles (Paul), not Jews and gentiles (Acts)." (italics in the original)
A: The skeptic Bart Ehrman apparently has a problem with any Jews being in the same church as ex-pagans, since Paul said they turned from pagan (i.e. non-Jewish) idols. But Acts 17:4 says at Thessalonica there were "some of the Jews" and "a large number of God-fearing Greeks". 1 Corinthians 12:2 says, "You know that when you were pagans". The majority formerly was pagan, but 1 Corinthians 12:2 does not mean 100% were not Jewish. Likewise 1 Thessalonians 1:9 says that they turned to God from idols because that is what the majority (not 100%) did.
Ehrmanís use of Galatians 2:8 is rather interesting. At the risk of overkill, let me quote it in full: "For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles." (NIV) Paul certainly was an apostle to the Gentiles, but Ehrman somehow thinks this proves that Jews couldnít or didnít join any churches where Paul set foot either. Ehrmanís judgment is all the more "remarkable" because it is generally agreed that Galatians was a book primarily written to counter legalistic Judaizers.
Rather than Paul in 1 Corinthians implying that the Corinthian church was only built of gentiles, Ehrman has apparently completely forgotten what Paul said about the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 1:12 that some Corinthians said they followed Paul; others said they followed Apollos, others said they followed Cephas (the non-Greek name of Peter). In 1 Corinthians 4:6; 16:12 Paul speaks approving of a Jewish evangelist who was prominent among the Corinthians: Apollos.
Q: In Acts 17:6, what extra-Biblical evidence is there for this strange Greek word for "city-ruler" (politarch)?
A: There used to be none whatsoever. However, archaeologists first discovered the word in 1835 in an arch outside of Thessalonika. The term has since been found in sixteen other places. See the Rose Book of Charts, Maps & Time Lines p.117 for a photogrpah of one of them. See The NIV Study Bible p.1679 for more info.
Q: In Acts 17:11, why were the Bereans more noble than the Thessalonians, for not trusting Paul as much?
A: They were more noble because they critically compared Paulís words with the Old Testament. The Thessaloniansí faith was not any less valid. Today, a Christianís faith is still valid if they have simply believed what their Christian friends and family have told them. However, it is better to examine the facts, and see all the evidence for faith.
Q: In Acts 17:14-15, did Paul go to Athens [allegedly] alone leaving Silas and Timothy behind in Berea, or did Paul send Timothy back to Thessalonica as 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 indicates?
A: There are two different responses that effectively answer this question, though I prefer the second.
No proof of Timothy being in Athens: 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 never said Timothy was with Paul in Athens. Rather, it only says that Paul sent Timothy. Paul could have told Timothy to go by letter, or verbally through another worker. People, then and now, delegate things to others through messages all the time.
Timothy could have gone to Athens and then left: Acts 17:14-15 says that Paul first went to Athens, but waited for them in Athens. So Paul went to Mars Hill before Timothy and Silas came to Athens, they came to Athens, and then Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica.
So after Timothy went to Berea either
a) he went to Athens after Paul, then was told by Paul to go back to Thessalonica.
b) he stayed in Berea, and was told by letter or messenger to go back to Thessalonica.
c) on the way to traveling to Athens, he was told by letter or messenger to go back to Thessalonica.
This is one of the details that Acts does not tell us.
Q: In Acts 17:16-34, why did Paul quote truth from pagan sources? Specifically, the Cretan poet Epimenides (600 B.C.) in Cretica "in him we live and move and have our being" and the Cilician poet Aratus (~315-240 B.C.) in Phaenomena, and the Stoic Cleanthes of Assos (331-233 B.C.) in Hymn to Zeus "We are his offspring"
A: Paulís quotes were both intentional and understood as such by his listeners. Paul was establishing a point of common ground many for which many of his listeners could relate. Clement of Alexandria, in Stromata (193-202 A.D.) book 1 ch.14 p.313, has an interesting thought on this. He says Paul quoted true statements of Greek poets to edify some and shame others. Perhaps Paul wanted to point out how curious it was that atheistic Epicureans and Pantheistic Stoics would worship and write hymns to Greek idols. See When Critics Ask under Titus 1:12 p.507-508 for more on quoting from pagan sources.
Q: In Acts 17:16-34, did Paul later regret this approach when he emphasized that he preached nothing but Christ to the Corinthians in 1 Cor 1:18-2:8, his next stop after Athens?
A: While people disagree on this, some think he did.
In Athens, Paul started by relating to their religion, showed some of the good truths to respect in their religion, showed some of the inconsistency of their idol worship, and differentiated the truth of Christ.
In Corinth, Paul emphasized that worldly wisdom cannot be gradually altered to come to Christ, that he preached Christ alone, and he wanted their faith to rest on Godís power, not human wisdom.
Regardless, Paul preached Christ, used scripture, spoke to the peopleís needs, still demolished arguments (2 Corinthians 10:5), and tried to be all things to all men in order to save some (1 Corinthians 9:19-22).
See the discussion on 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:8 for more info.
Q: In Acts 17:16-34, what is the evidence that Paul was not successful?
A: Four points to consider in the answer.
1. The church must have been insignificant in one of the leading cities of Greece; only two people were mentioned, and he never wrote to that church.
2. There is little evidence from church history of the importance of the church in Athens.
3. In Acts 17:18, some criticized Paul as a "seed-picker", an eclectic who took words from differing sources to form his own philosophy.
4. When Paul came from Athens to Corinth, he came in weakness, fear, and much trembling in 1 Corinthians 2:3.
But at least on the positive side, the Jews that were chasing Paul from town to town apparently did not dare to try to stop him once he got to pagan Athens.
Conclusion: The evidence is not conclusive that Paul was totally unsuccessful. However, it is an established fact that the church in Athens was much smaller and less influential than the Greek churches of Philippi, Thessalonika, and Corinth.
Q: In Acts 17:18, how did Paul try to reach the Epicureans, who came from Epicurus of Samos (341-270 B.C.)?
A: Epicurus believed the two main things man could be conscious of were pain and pleasure. He said the chief end of man was to maximize pleasure and happiness. He believed that the gods, if they existed at all, were irrelevant to mankind, and matter and chance were primary causes. http://www.nidlink.com (October 29, 2002) says that Epicurus was novel in allowing women and slaves in his school.
Epicureans believed only material atoms lasted forever, and there was no afterlife. Epicurus and Chrysippus said either there is no god at all, or if there is, he cares only for himself, according to Theophilusí Letter to Autolycus book 2 ch.4 p.95.
Both the Stoics and Epicureans believed the world will be destroyed in fire according The Octavius of Minucius Felix (210 A.D.) ch.34 p.194. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, one of the chief goals of Epicurus was to remove from man the fear of the gods. People should be free from the fear of death and judgment. The Epicureans did not have much ethical teaching. There were two types of Epicureans: original and "mutated". The original Epicureans believed in moderation. For example, both starvation and over-eating caused pain. The later, mutated Epicureans were party-goers who said "eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." There were not many famous Epicureans, but the Roman poet Lucretius was one. For more info see The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.318-319.
Against this, Paul mentioned the following.
1) God determines when and where people live
2) Men should seek God
3) We need to repent before God
4) God is near to us
5) God will judge the world with justice
6) Proof of the true religion: Resurrection of Jesus
Q: In Acts 17:18-31, why mention idols to Epicureans?
A: Epicurus did not deny the existence of the Greek gods, since he wrote (Letter to Menoeceus 123) "their existence is known to us by immediate apprehension." Other Epicureans wrote, "Fashioned of finer stuff that we, they dwell afar in the intermundial spaces (Plutarch Moralia 731 D, 734 C, Intermundia Cicero N.D. i.8)
The Epicureansí main opponents were the Stoics. While Stoics were pantheists, and Epicureans were similar to atheistic rationalists, both of them had the inconsistency of denying gods, yet explicitly affirming the Greek and later Roman idols.
Q: In Acts 17:18, how did Paul try to reach the Stoics, who came from Zeno of Citium on Cyprus (c.320-c.250 B.C.)?
A: The Stoics believed in a pantheistic force or divine soul that pervaded everything, and they believed a great purpose directed history. They did not see that pleasure was necessarily the best way to avoid pain. Sometimes one did not know how to correctly choose the best pleasure. They were fatalistic, and Josephus remarks they had many similarities to the Pharisees. Rather than believing in a divine law, they believed they should follow a "law of nature."
According to Athenagoras in A Plea for Christians (177 A.D.) ch.19 p.138, the Stoics say that all will be burned up and the world will receive another beginning. Tatianís Address to the Greeks ch.6 p.67 adds that the Stoics believed everything will be destroyed, and cycle back to be as it was before.
The stoics emphasized three things: logic, physics, and ethics, and they strove to shape peopleís character to be strong through triumph and tragedy. Its four highest virtues were wisdom, courage, self-restraint, and justice. Stoicism was a significant influence. Seneca, Epictetus, and the emperor Marcus Aurelius were Stoics.
Against Stoicism, Paul in Athens mentioned the following.
1) God being personal
2) Men should seek God, not just wisdom and ethics
3) We need to repent before God
4) God will judge the world
5) Proof of the true religion: the resurrection of Jesus
Q: In Acts 17:18-31, why did Paul mention idols to the pantheistic/ atheistic Stoics?
A: The famous philosopher Socrates was the only Greek philosopher known to be executed for not believing in the Greek gods. Since then, no other Greek philosopher stood up and said the Greek gods were false. One of Socratesí disciples, Antisthenes, found the Cynic school, and the Stoics came from the Cynics.
One must observe the inconsistency between Stoic philosophy and the actual beliefs of the Stoics.
Stoic Philosophy: Stoicism taught that all people are derived from the one universal spirit, (not Greek idols) that pervaded matter, and that all men are brothers and equal.
Stoics: However, the Stoics were not atheists, as one of the Stoicsí prominent leaders, Cleanthes of Assos wrote the Hymn to Zeus (Zeus was Greek idol) that Paul quoted from. Stoics who believed in idols later became a life and death matter for Christians. The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius was a Stoic who persecuted Christians, for among other things, not believing in any gods except the One True God.
Paulís purpose: In Acts 17:18-31, Paul was probably shrewdly but implicitly pointing out the intellectual hypocrisy of hymns to Zeus and approval of Greek idols vs. belief in only one (but pantheistic) God. The root issues is that if God is the cause of our being, then we cannot be the cause of Godís being.
Q: In Acts 17:18-31, was Paul using a straw-man argument, saying the gods were not these man-made idols? Some polytheists believed the idols were only lifeless representations of the gods.
A: Pagans inconsistently believed in both in invisible gods and the visible statues. Specifically, the gods could "indwell" the visible statues, which were sacred and had the power to give prophecies and heal. For example, at Ephesus they did not say the goddess Artemis was important; rather, they cried "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians." Letís look at what early Christians, modern Hindus, and modern Catholics said, not about polytheism in general, but about the worship of the actual stone statues themselves.
Early Church: Besides Paul, many early Christian writers pointed out this inconsistency, using many arguments of the same type, that "the actual wood, metal, and stone, cannot do anything". A few examples are:
Tatianís Address to Greeks ch.4 p.66 110-172 A.D.
Theophilus to Autolycus book 1 ch.10 p.92 168-181/188 A.D.
Athenagorasí Plea for Christians 177 A.D. takes the pagans to task for believing actual statues heal the dead and utter oracles.
Clement of Alexandria Exhortation (193-217/220 A.D.) ch.10 p.199 criticizes taking stones and wood as sacred things.
Minucius Felix (210 A.D.) "How much more truly do dumb animals naturally judge concerning your gods? Mice, swallows, kites, knew thay they have no feeling : they gnaw them, they trample on them, they sit upon them; and unless you drive them off, they build their nests in the very mouth of your god. Spiders, indeed, weave their webs over his face, and suspend their threads from his very head.You wipse, cleanse, scrape, and you protect and fea those whom you make; " Octavius of Minucius Felix ch.24 p.187
Octavius of Minucius Felix 210 A.D. ch.19 p.184 and ch.27 p.189-190. In chapter 27 p.190, he mentions that demons lurk under the statues and images,
Cyprian of Carthage (c.246-258) Treatise 6 ch.7 p.467 paraphrases Octavius about evil spirits lurking under statues and consecrated images.
Hindu Idolatry: Today, Vedantic Hindus emphasize the Upanishads, and one, pantheistic being, Brahman. Unlike other Hindus, they do not emphasize Indra the king of the gods, or that Shiva is Supreme, or that Vishnu is Supreme, or other gods. Yet, inconsistently, they can still have idols of these or other idols in their homes, which they give ghee (butter), or other offerings. How do these small idols consume the butter and other foods, especially if all is Brahman?
Catholic Idolatry: Today, Catholics believe not just that Mary sheds tears and heals, but that actual statues of her shed tears and heal.
Q: In Acts 17:23, is there any extra-Biblical evidence of an altar to an unknown god?
A: There is no archaeological evidence, but abundant literary evidence. Pausanius (2nd century A.D.) in Description of Greece 1:1:4 says "altars of gods unknown" and Philostratus (3rd century A.D.) in Life of Apollonius of Tyana 6:3:5 mentions "It is more prudent to speak well of all gods, especially at Athens, where altars are erected even to unknown gods." Diogenes Laertius in Lives of the Philosophers 1:110, mentions during a plague in Athens that Epimenides let loose black and white sheep. The Athenians were to sacrifice the sheep wherever they laid down to the altar closest to where they stopped. When the sheep stopped far from any existing altar to a god, the Athenians erected an altar to an unknown god. See Kirsop Lakeís article "The Unknown God" in F.J. Foakes-Jackson and K. Lake The Beginnings of Christianity vol.5 p.240-246 (1933) for more info.
Q: Does Acts 17:23 somehow support the atheistic contention that "God" is simply the name for what we do not know?
A: There is one point Christians can partially agree with atheists on. "God" is the term for what they do not know. But as a Christ we do know God. A second point atheists ought to agree on is that, given the volume of the Bible, and given the many testimonies of Christians, Christianity, assuming it is true, reveals a lot about God.
Everybody, atheists included, can be said to believe in God. Defining God here as that which is uncreated, that which set in place the natural laws, the original cause, the name of the atheistsí god is "random chance." (taken from a talk by David Prentiss.)
Q: Does Acts 17:28 show that pantheism is true?
A: No. The phrase "In him we live and move and have our being" does not refer to us being physically inside God, who is spirit. Rather, it means that all of us were both created by God, and our continued existence depends on God. See Colossians 1:16-17 for more on Paulís thought here, and see When Cultists Ask p.203 for more info.
Q: In Acts 17:28-29, does this show that a Heavenly father and mother gave birth to spirit-children, as Mormons have taught?
A: No. Two points to consider in the answer.
1. Note the absence of any reference to any goddess or mother.
2. Note the absence of any reference to sexual activity on Godís part. Muslims often falsely think Christians believe God can have sexual relations. Genuine Christians have never said God is a sexual being, though Mormons do teach that God is a sexual being. See When Cultists Ask p.203-204 for more info.
Q: In Acts 17:34, was Dionysius the same one who later became bishop of Athens?
A: We are not certain, but Eusebiusís Ecclesiastical History book 3 ch.4 p.137-138, records that Dionysius of Corinth (170 A.D.) said that Dionysius, the first bishop of Athens, and Dionysius the Areopagite were the same person.
Q: In Acts 17:34, did this Dionysius write the works said to be by Dionysius of Areopagite?
A: No. These were written hundreds of years later c.485-c.528 A.D.. The Encyclopedia Britannica, 1956 version (volume 7 p.396-397) says that these four works plus ten letters had a profound influence on theologians in the Middle Ages, including Thomas Aquinas, Erigena, Peter Lombard, Albert Magnus, and others. They were more interested in the system of Christian theology combined with Greek philosophy found within them, than the identity of the actual author.
Unfortunately, it put philosophy in place of relationship and obedience to God. The Encyclopedia Britannica (1956) p.396 says, "Their ingredients - Christian, Greek, Oriental and Jewish - are united into an organic system, not crudely mingled. Perhaps theological philosophic fantasy has never constructed anything more remarkable." This system stressed the flow of life from God through a three-by-three celestial hierarchy of:
I. Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones
II. Dominations, Virtues, and Powers
III. Principalities, Archangels, and Angels.
The study of the supposed relationship of these beings, triads of rituals, and other things took the place of the simple study of Godís word. It is almost as if the writer going under the pen name Dionysius the Areopagite had very carefully read Colossians 2:18-19, and then did all he could to disobey it.
Q: In Acts 17:34, who were the first to believe in Achaia, the Athenians Dionysius and Damaris, or the household of Stephanas in 1 Cor 16:15?
A: The household of Stephanas were the first to believe in Achaia. Athens was not a part of the Roman province of Achaia, but an administratively independent city surrounded by Achaia. A writer probably would not have known this, unless he lived at that exact time.
Q: In Acts 18:2, do we have any extra-Biblical confirmation that the Emperor Claudius (41-54 A.D.) ordered all Jews to leave Rome?
A: Yes, the Roman historian Suetonius in Claudius 25, writes of the expulsion and says the reason was "their continual tumults instigated by Chrestus". Chrestus was probably a misspelling of Christ, and the tumults likely were opposition of many Jews accepting Christ. This happened about 50 A.D.
Q: In Acts 18:12, do we have any extra-Biblical information about Gallio the proconsul?
A: Yes, Junius Annaeus Gallio was the older brother of the famous Stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca, who was the tutor of Nero. An inscription at Delphi says Gallio was proconsul from c.51-52 A.D. Others interpret the date to be 52-53 A.D. Apparently he had recently become proconsul when Paul was there. The skeptical Asimovís Guide to the Bible p.1135 says 1 Thessalonians was written about 50 A.D., which would make Paul in Corinth then. See The NIV Study Bible under Acts 18:12 and 1 Thessalonians (p.1819) for more info.
Q: In Acts 18:17, who beat Sosthenes and why?
A: Scripture does not say who beat Sosthenes or why. Letís look at four alternatives and then decide which is most probable.
a) Anti-Semitic Greeks beat Sosthenes
b) Jews beat Sosthenes for being a lukewarm spokesman.
c) Sosthenes the Jew took a beating "sacrificially" to try to convince Gallio.
d) Jews beat Sosthenes because he became a Christian.
Paul mentions Sosthenes in 1 Corinthians 1:1. Since Paul did not differentiate another Sosthenes, it was likely the same one, which makes d) probably the correct answer. Sosthenes was not a common Greek name, according to The New Bible Dictionary (Eerdmansí publishing, 1962) p.1208.
Q: In Acts 18:24-28, was Apollos a believer prior to knowing about Jesus?
A: Apollos did not know of Jesus, but like Abraham, Job, and others true followers, Apollos believed in God, but did not yet have the opportunity to hear of Jesus.
Q: In Acts 18:24-28, if Apollos had died prior to talking with Christians, would he have gone to heaven?
A: Scripture does not say, but there are three points.
1. Apollos believed the truth about God that he knew.
2. He probably did not understand or have the Spirit.
3. Rather than abandoning Apollos to this in-between state, God ensured Apollos would learn the truth.
Q: In Acts 19:1, what are the upper/higher coasts?
A: This was the coastline where the Sea was to the south, near Thessalonika in northeastern Greece.
Q: In Acts 19:2, should it say "since you believed" (KJV) or "when you believed" (most translations)?
A: The Greek has a range of meaning. It has been translated four ways, but the majority of scholars say it is best translated as "when".
since: KJV ("since" could either be subsequent in time or as a result of)
as a result of: Wuestís Expanded Translation
Believers, did you receive the Holy Spirit: (Greeneís literal translation)
when: NIV, NKJV, NET Bible, NASB, NRSV, Updated NASB, Williams Translation, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.409; The Expositorís Bible Commentary vol.9 p.493. The New International Bible Commentary edited by F.F. Bruce says, "(properly translated in NIV)"
The Believerís Bible Commentary p.1642 defines the main issue: "ĎDid you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?í In the KJV Paulís question reads, ĎHave ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?í This wrongly implies that the reception of the Holy Spirit takes place subsequent to salvation." (italics in original). The Expositorís Greek Testament p.403 says, "the question was whether they had received the Holy Ghost at their Baptism, and there is no allusion to any subsequent time. The two aorists, as in the R.V., point to one definite occasion"
So if a reader interprets "since" in the KJV as subsequent in time that is not correct, but "since" could also mean "as a result of" as Wuest interprets it.
Historically, this verse was not referred to in the pre-Nicene church writers. There is a manuscript variation in the last part of this verse, but it does not affect this part.
Q: In Acts 19:2-3, how could they truly believe without receiving the Holy Spirit?
A: Four points to consider in the answer.
Intellectually, anyone can believe Christianity is true without committing to being a Christian and being saved.
In Old Testament times, many believed God without having the Holy Spirit inside of them.
In this transitional time, these Gentiles were obedient to believe, even though the Holy Spirit had not filled them yet.
Today, while this case is not an example for us, it does prove that the Holy Spirit being inside a person was not a requirement for them to believe in God.
See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.531-533 and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.409 for more info.
Q: In Acts 19:2-3, can people today truly believe without receiving the Holy Spirit?
A: Two points to consider in the answer.
1. This passage, as well as the experience of many believers in the Old Testament, proves that, theoretically, it is possible for God to have people believe without having the Holy Spirit inside of them.
2. By the time Paul wrote Romans 8, the Holy Spirit would dwell inside of everyone who was a genuine believer.
See also the previous question for more info.
Q: In Acts 19:5 can you explain why in the book of Acts it says the disciples of Jesus baptized only in Jesus' name. Why?
While scripture does not specifically say, we can observe a number of things.
1. Other people baptized too. Jews had ritual washings, and later the Cerinthian heretics baptized. There were various ceremonies for Greek mystery religions.
But unlike these other baptisms, they baptized by the authority of Jesus; so "in the name of" here certainly includes the meaning of "by the authority of".
2. Of course John the Baptist baptized too. In fact, some Christians did things incorrectly at Ephesus. See Acts 19:1-6 for more.
3a. Some see that whether you baptized in the name of Jesus or in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit does not matter, it is all the same. It is not the "formula" or words that count, but the meaning and intent.
3b. On the other hand, perhaps Christians or Luke deliberately wanted to not publicize that they baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but as a shorthand just said baptize in the authority/name of Jesus.
4. Oneness Pentecostals claim that they are synonyms because Jesus is the Father and Jesus is the Holy Spirit. But this cannot be true because in Matthew 27:46 JESUS cried out saying "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me".
So 1 and 2 are both definitely true, and either 3a or 3b might be true. 4 is definitely false.
Q: In Acts 19:6-7, were the Ephesian disciples genuine Christians prior to being baptized with the Holy Spirit?
A: They were not Christians yet, though they were among the elect. Four points to consider in the answer.
In Old Testament times, a person could truly believe in God without having the Holy Spirit inside of them. The Holy Spirit could leave someone, as God left Samson in Judges 16:20, and David asked God not to do in Psalm 51:11.
In New Testament times, all genuine Christians have the Holy Spirit inside of them, as Romans 8:9-11 says and 1 Corinthians 2:16 implies. Acts 19:2 shows people who believed in Jesus but did not have the Holy Spirit yet. Since the transition from Old Testament Mosaic Covenant/Dispensation to New had already occurred, the thing to do was immediately ask for the Holy Spirit.
God is not limited to working inside our expectations. For example, some infants die without having the ability to believe in Jesus. Nothing in the Bible restricts God from having them go to Heaven through Jesus.
The Ephesian disciples knew only of the Old Testament and John the Baptist. (Perhaps Apollos had spoken to them.) They might have been like those in Old Testament times.
See Todayís Handbook for Solving Bible Difficulties p.356-357 for more on the view that they were believers.
Q: In Acts 19:12, should faith healers today give out handkerchiefs for healing?
A: Speaking as a non-Charismatic, there is nothing in this scripture, or any other in the Bible, to directly rule this out.
Q: In Acts 19:12, since people were healed by handkerchiefs and aprons the apostle touched, does that support religious relics, like the Catholic and Orthodox churches use?
A: No, because there were significant differences between the apostleís handkerchiefs and later relics.
1. The clothing was used for healing, and not used in worship or veneration.
2. It was only clothing from the apostles, not from other saints, such as Mary or James the Lordsí brother.
3. There was no money involved here.
From the time of John Climacus (before 670 A.D.) on, various Christian theologians attempted to formulate a comprehensive list of virtues and vices. What is most significant about almost all of these lists is that they totally forgot about the second of the ten commandments. (If you are not sure what the second commandment is, you might want to read Exodus 20:4-6.)
Note that there are some differences between the Catholic and Orthodox views of veneration. The orthodox usually have icons, or two-dimensional images that they pray to God through. Catholics have more statues.
See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.410 and When Cultists Ask p.204-205 for more info.
Q: In Acts 19:13-17, why could the Jewish exorcists not cast out the devils?
A: They were saying the correct words, but the power was not in the words. The important part was the power of God flowing through the life of a Christian. Since they were not Christians, that power was not there.
Q: In Acts 19:19, what should our attitude be toward books of the occult and counterfeit religions?
A: First some things to consider, and then the answer.
There might have been one or two medicinal remedies that worked, mixed in with a large number of bogus remedies. There might have been a few wise words that were sound, mixed in with many occultic lies. There might have been a few spells that actually worked, because demons made them appear to work. Nevertheless, all the books were burned.
While it is admitted that books of other religions do contain many true things, we are not to look for truth by studying books to other gods. In Proverbs 9:17 it is folly, not wisdom that says, "Stolen water is sweet: food eaten in secret is delicious" (NIV). This means that it is folly that tries to be eclectic and take whatever good "details" might be in a work to a false god.
The balance to the previous paragraph is that Paul quoted from pagan Greek poets when speaking to the Greeks in Athens and other places. While Paul made his opinion of trusting in Greek philosophy very clear in Colossians 2:8 and 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Paulís was using his knowledge of Greek philosophy and religion to explain Christian concepts in a way to which they could better relate. Christians disagree on the relative effectiveness of Paul using this method versus "preaching nothing but the Gospel" as he said he did in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.
Q: In Acts 19:24, is this the same Demetrius that was a believer in 3 John 12?
A: While this is possible, it is highly unlikely, as Demetrius was a common Greek name.
Q: In Acts 19:24,27,28 (KJV) (NKJV), was it "Diana" or "Artemis" like other translations say?
A: The Greek word here is "Artemis" as in the NIV, NET Bible, Williams Translation, and others. Artemis and Diana were the same goddess, but Diana was the Roman name, so there really is no difference. The NKJV and Wuest translate "Diana", but the NKJV footnote says that the Greek is "Artemis". See New Age Bible Versions Refuted p.8 for more info.
Q: In Acts 19:26,28, why did Demetrius summarize all of Paulís teaching in this way.
A: His lopsided summary actually is highly instructive. He took all of Paulís teaching and "condensed" it to what he considered relevant to him. Since he did not desire to follow the truth, all he heard was that his business of making idols might decrease if people believed in a God who had no idols.
Some Christians might be amazed when a non-Christianís summary of their words might be as lopsided and superficial as Demetriusí analysis. Though Paul was an effective Christian communicator, his words were just not bridging the gap, for people like Demetrius had burned the bridge on the other side. Even if you knew as much as Paul, had his experience, and could do the miracles he did, if the Holy Spirit is not working in the heart of the listener, your words alone will not be effective to bridge the gap.
On the other hand, the same words were effective in converting many in Ephesus. So the fact that your words might fail to reach some people does not mean the failure is in the words.
Q: In Acts 19:35, why were they so sensitive about "Artemis of the Ephesians"?
A: The temple of Artemis was built here after a meteorite landed. The offerings left at the Temple, and the sale of idols of Artemis brought revenue to the city. As the skeptical Asimovís Guide to the Bible p.1072 points out, conquerors generally spared Ephesus because of respect for the Temple of Artemis. However, in 400 B.C. the Temple was accidentally burned down, and in 356 B.C., a fame-seeker named Herostratus purposely burned down the temple so that his name would be immortal. They executed Herostratus, and in the future would likely execute anyone accused of desecrating the Temple of Artemis, that brought them safety and income. In Paulís time it was an ornate temple, with 127 marble pillars with gold and white. The New Geneva Study Bible p.1746 mentions that the temple served as a banking depository, too.
For some people, worshipping an idol is equated with national patriotism. In Roman times, loyal Roman citizens were supposed to sacrifice to the Emperor. The magazine Hinduism Today April, 1998 p.36 mentions that Hinduism is "patriotic" to India. Of course, until the British came, one of the few elements common to all Hinduism was "Suttee", the practice of the widow being burned to death on the husbandís funeral pyre. If traditional Hinduism is true patriotism, thank goodness not many Indians are "patriotic" by the twisted definition of being true to their Hindu traditions.
Q: In Acts 19:35, what do we know about this position of "townclerk"?
A: The New Bible Dictionary (Eerdmansí, 1962) p.1287 and the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1730 both mention that the town clerk, or grammateus, was usually the secretary, and leader, of the city council. The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary adds that the Roman provincial government was in Ephesus, and the townclerk was the liaison between the city and the Roman government. His short yet effective speech demonstrated his skill at using his knowledge of the people to persuade them to keep calm, and the respect the people had for him.
Q: In Acts 19:35, why do they mention the image that fell down from Jupiter?
A: Apparently one factor in the special emphasis of Artemis at Ephesus was a meteorite that fell from the sky near there. Similarly, a meteorite was reverenced at the Kaíaba in Mecca both prior to and in Mohammedís time.
Q: In Acts 20:6, what were the days of unleavened bread?
A: This was an expression for the time of the Passover, as the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1647 and the New Bible Dictionary p.420 say. In the Bible, this is equated with the Passover in Exodus 23:15 and Leviticus 23:4-8.
Q: In Acts 20:9-12, what does the name "Eutychus" mean in Greek?
A: The name Eutychus means "Lucky". You can remember this story, as few people who fall asleep at the window of opportunity get a second chance.
Q: In Acts 20:9-12, was Eutychus dead, or was his life still in him as Paul said?
A: Eutychusí life was in him after Paul raised him from the dead. See When Critics Ask p.436 and Haleyís Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible p.337 for essentially the same answer.
Q: In Acts 20:13, why did Paul want to travel on foot here?
A: Scripture does not say, but perhaps Paul wanted to see some people one last time on earth.
Q: In Acts 20:15,17 what do we know about the city of Miletus?
A: Both the Persians and silt made this a city "past its glory." The Persians sacked Miletus in 499 B.C.. It recovered to become a major city of Asia Minor. Miletus was on the coast about 30 miles from Ephesus. Today, the sea coast is ten miles away, because large quantities of silt were deposited along the entire coast.
The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1118 says it had a population of 100,000 during the first century A.D. However, the New International Dictionary of the Bible p.650 says it was a city of no great standing.
The reason for this difference of opinion is probably because Miletus was originally larger than Ephesus. However, around the second century A.D. it was insignificant because the harbor was silting up. It is unclear how big it was in Paulís time.
Q: In Acts 20:16, why did Paul want to hurry to be in Jerusalem by Pentecost?
A: Apparently Paul knew he had an appointment with destiny at that particular place and time. Acts 20:23 mentions that the Holy Spirit revealed some of Paulís future to him.
A second reason might be that he knew great crowds from many lands would be in Jerusalem at that time, and Paul wanted to preach to them.
Q: In Acts 20:20, what guidelines can we learn from Paul for speaking Godís message?
A: This verse does not give an exhaustive list, but here we can learn five things.
Paul did not hesitate: He spoke whether it was positive or negative, regardless of what the listeners wanted to hear. In contrast to Paulís "discharging his duty" in 2 Timothy 4:5-9, false teachers satisfied peopleís itching ears in 2 Timothy 4:3-4.
What would be helpful: There is no limit to the number of interesting little topics that are not relevant to a personís being born again or growing in their relationship in the Lord. Paul spoke to encourage, correct, and rebuke (2 Timothy 4:22), and encourage, comfort, and urge (1 Thessalonians 2:12). Our conversation is always to be "seasoned with salt" as Colossians 3:6 says.
To you: Jesus often did not use the exact same words with different people. Paul likewise spoke what was needed by his listeners.
Taught Publicly: Paul was not afraid to extemporaneously address a crowd of people, knowing that God would be speaking through him.
And from house to house: Paulís stature, reputation, and success did not make this public speaker proud, that he would not speak one-on-one to small groups of people for their benefit.
Q: In Acts 20:21, why was Paul teaching them to have faith in the Lord Jesus instead of faith in God the Father?
A: Rightly understood, faith in one is faith in the other, for with the Holy Spirit they are a Trinity. The heresy of Oneness (Modalism) was so far removed from the mind of Paul and the minds of the early Christians at this time, that the issue was not even considered.
Q: In Acts 20:22-23, why was the Holy Spirit leading Paul to persecution and perhaps death?
A: The answer is found in Acts 20:24. The Holy Spirit frankly told him what would happen if Paul followed God. Paul, with that knowledge, freely made the decision to go anyway. We should not be confused in thinking that something that requires bravery is never needed. Sometimes God leads Christians today this way, too. It can be that Godís way for an obedient Christian ends in a death for Godís glory.
Q: In Acts 20:22 - Acts 21:11, was Paul obedient or disobedient to the Holy Spirit?
A: Paul was obedient. Here are four points to consider in the answer.
1. The Holy Spirit specifically told Paul of Godís will for him to go to Jerusalem.
2. Multiple times, the Holy Spirit warned him of the dangers there.
3. Perhaps Paul was given an option of going to Jerusalem and suffering, or not going to Jerusalem.
4. Paulís own choice, to do exactly what God wanted and go to Jerusalem, was not coerced, nor was it made in ignorance, but it was made with the knowledge that God gave to Paul that he would suffer.
See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.383-384 and Hard Sayings of the Bible p.533-535 for complementary answers.
Q: In Acts 20:25, why did Paul say they would never see him again, since they would see Paul again in Heaven?
A: Their mortal eyes would never see Paul again. In addition the Greek literally says they would never see Paulís face again. Since 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, but the perishable must be changed to the imperishable. Thus it is true that they would never see Paulís flesh or mortal face again.
Q: In Acts 20:26, how in the world can Paul say he was pure of the blood of all men, since he had killed so many Christians?
A: Paul used to be guilty of those crimes against God, but God purified Him through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. No matter how evil a person may be, Christís blood can purify that person of their sins, if they repent and believe in Jesus. See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.647-649 for more info.
Q: In Acts 20:28, since Christ purchased His church with His own blood, does that mean he did not purchase salvation for the non-elect?
A: There is only one answer, but it has two parts.
No. Christ made the sacrifice and included everyone in the offer.
Yes. Since they did not accept the offer, the transaction of Jesus purchasing their salvation was never completed.
There is a root inconsistency in many Calvinists, (Amyraldian Calvinists and HyperCalvinists excepted). They believe that Christ offered to even the non-elect something He did not buy for them and never intended or desired for them to have.
Q: In Acts 20:29-30, why would Almighty God allow "grievous wolves" to come in and ravage His flock?
A: For whatever reason, God often allows testing of His people. One purpose of life on earth is as a proving ground for Heaven. However, through all the tests that Christians have, God promises that He will always show them a way to succeed. Specifically, here are the verses in the following areas.
Temptation: 1 Corinthians 10:13 says that no temptation comes upon us except what is common to man. What is even more important is the last part of the same verse: when we are tempted, God will also provide a way out so that we can stand up under it.
Doctrine: In John 16:13, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth. 1 John 4:1-3 gives us one doctrinal way to test the spirits. Jesus gave us another way (by their fruits) in Matthew 7:15-20. 2 Timothy 3:5,8-9 says that the kind of false teachers who have the form of godliness, but deny its power will be discernible by everyone.
Discouragement: Jesus promised that those who mourn, will be comforted in Matthew 5:4, and 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 promises that the Father will comfort us in all our troubles.
Q: In Acts 20:31 did Paul admonish the Ephesians for three years, or did he teach at the school of Tyrannus in Ephesus for two years, as Acts 19:10 says?
A: Both are true. Prior to teaching in the Hall of Tyrannus in Acts 19:10, Paul spent time in Ephesus making converts (Acts 18:1-7), and he spoke in the synagogue for three months (Acts 18:8). See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.383 for more info.
Q: In Acts 20:35, where did Jesus say "it is more blessed to give than to receive?
A: As both The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.414 and the skeptical Asimovís Guide to the Bible p.1075 point out, these words of Jesus are not found in the four Gospels. The apostle John said in John 21:25 that Jesus said many other things, which were not recorded. See also Hard Sayings of the Bible p.535-537 for a more extensive discussion.
Q: In Acts 20:38, why did some grieve over Paulís upcoming martyrdom, and is it OK for Christians to mourn?
A: Yes, it is OK to grieve over someoneís death for a while, and it is OK for Christians to mourn. Jesus expected godly people to mourn over sin in Matthew 5:4, though the larger context could support mourning in general.
Q: In Acts 21:2 (KJV), where is "Phenecia"?
A: The word is really "Phoenicia, which is on the coast of Lebanon and Syria.
Q: In Acts 21:4, why did the disciples urge Paul, through the Spirit, not to go to Jerusalem, since the Spirit told Paul to go in Acts 20:22-23?
A: The Holy Spirit told the disciples that they would never see Paul alive on earth again if he went. Warning Paul of the dangers is different from forbidding him to go. See the discussion on Acts 20:22 for more info on what was involved here.
Q: In Acts 21:5 (KJV), what does "accomplish those days" mean?
A: The NIV and Williams translation say "when our time was up". The NKJV says "end of those days". Wuestís Expanded Translation says, "when we had fulfilled the days".
Q: In Acts 21:8, what was the group of seven Philip was a part of?
A: These were the original seven deacons selected in Acts 6:3-5.
Q: In Acts 21:11, why did Agabus prophesy the Jews would bind Paul in this way, since the Romans were the ones who bound Paul in Rom 22:25,29?
A: First of all, the Jews may also have bound Paul when he stood before the Sanhedrin in Acts 23:1-10. Regardless, the Romans acted in the Jews behalf when they bound Paul because of the Jewish commotion. This use of language is similar to what Peter used in Acts 4:10, when he said to the council "you crucified" Jesus, even thought it was the hand of the Roman soldiers that actually carried it out.
The idea that someone who plotted and ordered a crime to be committed would be innocent because it was anotherís hand, was as foreign a concept to them as it should be to us.
Hear Hank Hanegraff of CRI on the Bible Answer Man radio program (May 6, 1999) for a similar answer.
Q: In Acts 21:16, how do you pronounce Mnason?
A: Crudenís Concordance pronounces it as "NA-son" with a silent "m", the accent on the first syllable and two short vowels. The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary says the same, except that the first vowel is long.
Q: In Acts 21:19, why was Paul always telling other believers what God had done through Him?
A: There was nothing wrong with that. James and the others glorified God for Paulís work, according to Acts 21:18-20.
Q: In Acts 21:21, do Jewish people who are Christians have extra regulations that non-Jewish Christians do not have?
A: At that time they did. Jews who became Christians were expected to keep the Old Testament law, and there were two pragmatic reasons for not giving offense to the Jews.
a) They wanted to be able to win them to Christ.
b) They might avoid some persecution when living in their land.
That being said, an angel told a Jewish Christian (Peter) essentially that all Christians were not to obey Jewish dietary laws (Acts 9:9-16). Another Jewish Christian (Paul) said that it was OK for genuine Christians to differ on observing the Sabbath and on eating some meats (Romans 14).
That being said about dietary laws, there is no indication that the moral law of the Old Testament was changed or made obsolete.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.416 points out that despite what Paul told Gentiles, he never told Jews not to follow Jewish customs or not to circumcise their sons.
See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.537-539 for a different, but complementary answer.
Q: In Acts 21:22-26, was the request James and the elders gave Paul wise?
A: Based on Acts 21:27-36, it would appear that the plan backfired. If it gave anyone the impression that converted Jews should still obey the law, the impression was obscured by the false charge that non-Jews were brought into the Temple and Paul was arrested.
Q: In Acts 21:28,31 is there any archaeological evidence for the Jewish rule that non-Jews were to be killed if they entered the Temple?
A: Yes. In 1871 an inscription was found at Jerusalem that reads "No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the temple and enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to thank for his ensuing death." See The New Testament Documents : Are They Reliable? p.93-94 by F.F. Bruce (IVP, 1943) for more info.
Q: In Acts 21:40-22:23, why did Paul want to address the crowd?
A: It was probably not to appease and satisfy them. Remember, Paul had a very similar experience, except that he was on the other side, when Stephen spoke in Acts 7:1-58. Paul actually had the nerve to mention this in Acts 22:20. Paul was evangelizing them so that they would believe in Jesus.
Q: In Acts 22:9, why does it say they did not understand the voice, since Acts 9:7 says they heard the sound?
A: They heard the sound but could not make out the words. Three points to consider in the answer.
1. Acts 22:9 in the Greek, Paul says, "but voice not they heard of Him" (Greenís Literal Translation)
2. Acts 9:7 in the Greek says, "hearing indeed the sound"
3. As Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties 382-383 points out, they heard a sound, but did not hear the words of a voice. While the Greek noun is the same, the verb is genitive case when they hear a noise, and accusative case when it means they heard a thought-conveying message.
Q: In Acts 22:16, how do people get baptized and wash away their sins?
A: It is OK to say that people wash away their sins here as long as you remember four points.
1. The power to wash away is with God, not magic in the water.
2. God is not restricted to being "unable" to save people who are not baptized, because the thief on the cross was with Jesus in Paradise.
3. For our part, the pledge of a sincere conscience before God is more important than the water, as 1 Peter 3:21 shows. However, being baptized with water is a command for every single Christian.
4. The Jews were familiar with ceremonial washings in the Old Testament Law. Thus, Paulís audience understood what he meant and did not mix it up with the errors of "magic water" or "a restricted God".
The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.418 sheds some helpful light on the Greek here. The phrase "calling on His name" is a Greek aorist participle, which "refers either to action which is simultaneous with or before that of the main verb. Here Paulís calling on Christís name (for salvation) preceded his water baptism. The participle may be translated, Ďhaving called on His name."
See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.539-540 for more info.
Q: In Acts 22:20 (KJV), what does "tarriest" mean?
A: This King James Version expression means wait or delay.
Q: In Acts 22:23 (KJV), why did they throw off their clothes?
A: Actually they tore their clothes as a ritual sign of their hearing blasphemy. The Williams Translation is not too precise here, saying "tossing their clothes about".
Q: In Acts 22:28, why did the captain say he himself paid to become a Roman citizen?
A: It was probably to try to trick Paul, if Paul were lying. A man who was faking to be a Roman citizen might simply say he became a Roman citizen by paying for it, too. It was very rare to become a Roman citizen by paying for the privilege.
Also, the captain might have been persuaded because, while Paul earlier spoke to the people in Hebrew, Paul probably spoke in Greek, and since he was from Tarsus, it was probably perfect Greek without an accent from Palestine.
Q: In Acts 23:3 (KJV), what is a "whited wall"?
A: This is a whitewashed wall. The white paint used in ancient times would not last through too many rainstorms.
Q: In Acts 23:3, how are some people like whitewashed walls?
A: Whitewash is cheap paint. It can make a fence or wall look very white, but the white color comes off easily in the rain or when things touch it. Likewise, some people can appear very righteous, but the righteousness comes off very easily. We should strive for a righteousness that penetrates our whole being. Whitewash is OK for fences and walls, but not for Christians.
Q: In Acts 23:5, why did Paul say he did not know Ananias was the high priest?
A: Scripture does not say, but there are four possible reasons.
(unlikely) 1. Paul was being sarcastic here. It would be hard for a stranger to recognize Ananias as high priest, by the way Ananias broke the Jewish Law to have Paul be struck.
(unlikely) 2. Some people think that Paul had poor eyesight, and they did not have eyeglasses back then. If Paul knew Ananiasí face, he did not recognize him from a distance.
(likely) 3. Since Paul did not live in Jerusalem, he did not know Ananias was the high priest, or if he knew the name, he had never seen the man before.
(likely) 4. When Paul was struck, Paul heard the command to strike him, but Paul did not see who was speaking. Paul spoke against the speaker, not realizing the speaker was the high priest.
See When Critics Ask p.436 for more info.
Q: In Acts 23:5, why did Paul say you should not speak evil of the ruler of your people?
A: Exodus 22:28 says not to "curse" the ruler of your people. The Hebrew word here, qalal, also means to revile, bring into contempt, esteem lightly, and so forth.
Q: In Acts 23:6, was Paul right to stir up the Pharisees and Sadducees against one another?
A: It was fine for Paul to do so. Paul brought up an important matter (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-4), to show that the unity between the Sadducees and Pharisees was only superficial.
Q: In Acts 24:25-27, was Felix unjust to keep Paul in prison?
A: By Roman standards Felix was not unjust, but in reality he was. Felix had made no wrong judgment against Paul. But, by imprisoning Paul for two years, that was wrong. Today people can be unjust not just by denying what somebody should have, but by indefinitely postponing it.
Q: In Acts 24:27, is there an archaeological evidence for Festus?
A: Porcius Festus was appointed to be the governor of Judea in the Fall of 60 A.D., according to the Believerís Bible Commentary (Nelson, 1989) p.1657. However, the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.605-606, says there is some uncertainty about the date, which could vary from 55 A.D. to 60 A.D. Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 20.8.9-11 written about 93-94 A.D.) also says Festus was appointed governor of Judea.
The New Geneva Study Bible (p.1754) records that Festus was the surname of a noble family in Rome.
The New International Study Bible p.1693 says that there is no record of Festus prior to his coming to Palestine. However, records of his rule shows that he was wiser and more honest than Felix. Even so, Felix had to go to Rome to answer for his handling of riots between Jews and Syrians.
Q: In Acts 25:11 and Acts 26:32, what did it mean to appeal to Caesar?
A: This meant that Paul would travel to Rome so that Caesar would decide his case personally.
Q: In Acts 25:23, what else do we know about Bernice?
A: Bernice was first married to Herod of Chalcis. Eventually she left her third husband and lived with her brother Agrippa. According to the skeptical Asimovís Guide to the Bible p.1083, she sided with the Romans in the Jewish War and later became the mistress of the Roman General Titus.
Q: In Acts 26:14, how could the voice be speaking to Saul in Hebrew, since the popular phrase "it is hard to kick against the goads" was known in Greek, but not Hebrew?
A: Paul knew Greek and Greek culture as well as Hebrew. There are two possible answers, and frankly, it does not matter which one is true.
1. It is not uncommon to translate a slang expression from one language to another, especially when Paul, not to mention God, knew both languages well.
2. God could have spoken to Paul in Hebrew and spoke just this phrase in Greek. It would still be accurate, though imprecise, to say God spoke to Paul in Hebrew if God also spoke one small phrase in Greek.
Q: In Acts 26:23, how do different translations say Christ is first?
A: Originally the Greek had no punctuation, so there are two ways this could be translated.
Putting "first" with the preceding clause.
"that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light..." (KJV)
"that he would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light..." (NKJV)
"as the first to rise from the dead would proclaim light..." (NIV)
"by being the first to rise from the dead was to proclaim the light..." (Williams)
"by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light..." (RSV, NRSV)
"He being the first to rise from the dead is destined to be a proclaiming light..." (Wuestís Expanded Translation)
Putting "first" with the following clause.
"by reason of His resurrection from the dead He should be the first to proclaim light..." (NASB, uNASB)
"by a resurrection of the dead He was first going to proclaim light..." (Greenís Literal Translation)
By the way, some modern translations say "rise from the dead" for better readability, but the Greek is actually "resurrection from dead".
My conclusion: While the Greek could be either way, Paulís use of the term "firstborn of the dead" in other passages suggests that "first" goes with the preceding clause.
Q: In Acts 26:23, what precisely does "first" mean here?
A: First letís look at the Greek word for "first" that Paul uses here and elsewhere, then letís look at precisely what Paul meant by resurrection, here and elsewhere.
Greek protos/proton (Strongís 4412/4413) are related words that can mean first in time, order, or importance. Paul also uses this word in an approximate sense to mean "early on" or "before another".
Combining Paulís writings, and Lukeís account of Paulís teaching, Paul uses this word as follows:
Time or order only: Acts 13:46; 20:18; 26:20; 1 Cor 14:30; 16:2; Gal 4:13; Eph 1:12; 4:9; 1 Thess 4:16; 2 Thess 2:3; 1 Tim 3:10; 5:4; 5:12; 2 Tim 1:5; 4:16; 2 Tim 2:6; Tt 3:10
Importance only: 1 Cor 11:18; 12:28; 15:3; 2 Cor 8:5,12; 1 Tim 1:16; 2:1
Both time/order and importance: Acts 26:23; Rom 1:8; 1:16; 1 Cor 15:45,46,47; 1 Tim 2:13;
Early on or before another: Romans 10:19-20; 15:24; Eph 1:12; 6:2; Php 1:5; 1 Tim 1:16; 2 Tim 4:16
Undifferentiated: Rom 2:9; 2:10; Eph 6:2
Conclusion: Acts 26:23 can mean all three: time/order, importance, and before another. Christ was the first to rise with an incorruptible body, He is the source of our resurrection, and rose before any of us will rise.
What Kind of Resurrection:
Paul was no stranger to resurrection, having raised Eutychus from the dead in Acts 20:9-12. But to be technical, the Greek is not the action of "rising from the dead", but rather the noun "resurrection of dead". So what is Paul referring to?
a) Temporary resurrection with bodies that would die again: Lazarus (John 11:38-42), the widowís (1 Kings 17:22), the Shunamiteís son (2 Kings 4:28-37), and Eutychus (Acts 20:9-12).
b) Permanent resurrection, of which Jesus was the first to rise with an incorruptible body.
Paul no where else preached the first type, only the second. In Romans 6:9 he says that Christ was raised "never to die again", and likewise our resurrected bodies are incorruptible (1 Corinthians 15:20-23; 35-55). Paul also says, "The fact that God raised him [Jesus] from the dead, never to decay" in Acts 13:34a
It would be false to think that Paul preached either that Christ only had a temporary resurrection, or that Paul promised us only a temporary resurrection. His message to Festus and Agrippa, and to everybody else, was only about the permanent resurrection that Christ and we have. See The Expositorís New Testament vol.2 p.510 for more on this passage.
Q: In Acts 26:24-29, why was Paul so bold before King Agrippa?
A: What did Paul have to lose? The Holy Spirit told Paul that he would testify at Rome, and Paul knew he was going to Rome. Paul was bold here for the sake of converting his listeners. Paul apparently thought a direct, simple appeal was the best approach.
Today, we should be bold, too. Do not just make presenting the Gospel an ulterior motive, but say up-front the most important motive for our speaking to them is that they can be saved.
Q: In Acts 26:27-29, why did King Agrippa not accept Christ when Paul spoke to him?
A: While we do not know all the reasons, it could have been out of pride, fear, other people watching. Ultimately, God foreknew and predestined who would go to Heaven. Regardless of how you might think foreknowledge and predestination interrelate, it is incorrect if you combine the two in such a way as to explicitly or implicitly absolve King Agrippa of his responsibility to accept and believe.
Q: In Acts 27:10, did Paul give a false prophecy here, that people would lose their lives, since no one lost their life according to Acts 27:22?
A: No, but there are two different answers.
Paulís original opinion vs. Godís later promise: Paul was speaking from his own knowledge in Acts 27:10, because Paul said "I can see", and not "God said", or "an angel said" as in Acts 27:22.
Godís revealed will can change when our will does: Perhaps God did tell Paul that there might be loss of life prior to Acts 27:10. Since Acts 27:24 says that the lives of those with Paul were "granted" to him, Paul must have prayed earnestly for them. Godís revealed will toward us can change when we pray or our will changes. For another example of this, see Genesis 20:3-7. For an example of where Davidís faithful, frequent, and earnest prayer was answered "No", see 2 Samuel 12:15-19.
Q: In Acts 27:12 (KJV), what does "not commodious" mean?
A: Commodious means convenient and suitable. The NIV and NKJV have "unsuitable", the NET Bible, NASB uNASB, RSV and NRSV have "not suitable" and Williams translation has "not fit". Wuestís Expanded Translation says, "being unfit".
Q: In Acts 27:12 (KJV), where is "Phenice"?
A: This is also rendered "Phoenix", and was a town in Southern Crete. Crete is not a big place, about 160 miles long, but it is the largest island between Sicily and Cyprus. The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1328 says that Strabo and Ptolemy also mention this harbor.
Q: In Acts 27:14, what is a "Euroclydon" wind?
A: It is a strong, northeastern wind that occurs in fall and early winter in this part of the Mediterranean.
Q: In Acts 27:27, how were they sailing in the Adriatic Sea, since they should have been south of Italy?
A: According to the NIV, back then what they called the Adriatic Sea also included water south of Italy and south of what today is called the Adriatic Sea.
Q: In Acts 27:30 (KJV), what does "under colour" mean?
A: It means "pretending to do something".
Q: In Acts 27:37, why were there so many people in the ship Paul traveled on?
A: It was a apparently a large ship, and most ships at that time had slaves to row the oars.
Q: In Acts 27:38-41, why were they wanting to run the ship into a stream or creek?
A: Probably to avoid large rocks.
Q: In Acts 27:39 (KJV), what is a "creek" here?
A: This actually should have been translated "bay" as the NKJV, NIV, NASB, uNASB, Greenís Literal translation, Wuestís Expanded Translation, and the Williams Translation.
Q: In Acts 27:41, what is the significance driving the vessel ashore between two seas?
A: There were (and still are) sandbars in what is now called St. Paulís Bay between the islands of Malta and Salmonetta. This spot was perfect for driving the ship aground, as one would not want to drive the ship against rocks.
As the New Geneva Study Bible (p.1759) implies, this insignificant detail is very significant, because nobody would know this unless they either lived on Malta or were an eyewitness.
Q: In Acts 27:42, why were the soldiers so eager to kill the prisoners?
A: Roman soldiers could be killed for letting their prisoners escape. Perhaps the soldiers would be satisfied since any blame would go to the centurion, since he commanded them not to kill the prisoners.
Q: In Acts 28:1 (KJV), where is the island of Melita?
A: It is now called the island of Malta. The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1099 and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.429 say it is 95 square miles (246 square kilometers), 60 miles (96 kilometers) south of Sicily, and 600 miles (960 kilometers) west of Fair Havens, Crete.
Q: In Acts 28:1, exactly where did Paul land on Malta?
A: It was likely a place that today is called Paulís Bay (for obvious reasons). It is about 8 miles (13 km) northwest of the city of Valetta.
Q: In Acts 28:2 (KJV), why were the people called barbarians?
A: These people were not Jews, and to the Greeks, the word barbaros simply meant someone who did not speak Greek. The NIV Study Bible p.1699 adds that these people were the descendants of Phoenicians who were Romanized, and thus quite civilized.
Q: In Acts 28:3, how could a viper fasten itself on Paulís hand, since there are no vipers in Malta today?
A: Today there are only two species of snakes in Malta, and both of them were imported. There is not much forest to gather wood from on Malta today, either. However, before men cleared out the forest, there is no reason to suppose that there were not the same kinds of snakes that were in the surrounding lands. The snake Vipera aspis lives in southern Europe, Vipera latastei inhabits in Spain and Portugal, and Vipera amondytes is somewhat farther away in southeastern Europe.
While this could have been a demon disguised as a snake, there is no reason to suppose it was not a normal, natural animal. Whether the snake was indigenous or came in on a ship, the Maltese were not strangers to poisonous snakes.
Q: In Acts 28:7, is there any archaeological evidence for the title "first/chief man" of the Island?
A: Yes. The New Geneva Study Bible (p.1759) says an inscription shows that Emperor Augustus installed a "chief man over all the municipality of Malta."
Q: In Acts 28:7, is there any extra-Biblical evidence for this Publius, the "chief man of the island"?
A: Yes. The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1428 mentions that tradition says Publius became the first bishop of Malta. Gennadius/Jerome in On Illustrious Men 19 says that he was killed for his Christian faith.
Q: In Acts 28:13 (KJV) since it says "we fetched a compass", does that mean that compasses existed back then?
A: Some Mormons have appealed to this to show that compasses were used in ancient times, and thus having a compass exist in the Book of Mormon would not be an error of a historical anachronism after all.
Three points to consider in the answer.
1. The Bible was written in the Greek language, not English. The Greek is "Going around from there", and absent is any mention of any navigational instruments in this verse.
2. The English language has evolved, and the English in the 400 year old King James Version is not identical with the English of today. The word "compass" meant "to go around" in KJV times.
3. "Compass" is used in the KJV to meant to go around or surround in Luke 21:20 also.
Summary: Thus the translators of the King James Bible did not translate incorrectly here. Rather they used a word that was correct in English 400 years ago.
See What You Know Might Not Be So : 220 Misinterpretations of Bible Texts Explained p.45 for more info.
Q: In Acts and Luke, what can be said about Lukeís writing style?
A: While Mark wrote as a "man of action", Luke was interested in what was said. Over half of the 22% of Acts is in the principle speeches, and including other, smaller speeches, over half of the book of Acts is speeches.. The speeches were undoubtedly much longer than Luke recorded, and it is acknowledged that Luke paraphrased. Likewise the Gospel of Luke tells more parables of Jesus than other gospels.
Lukeís Greek is excellent, and he was apparently highly educated. In fact, Greek students today find his Greek the most complicated to translate in the Bible.
See Mike Liconaís The Resurrection of Jesus p.216,217 for more info.
Q: Who wrote the Book of Acts?
A: It is fairly unanimous that it was written by Luke, the same person who wrote the Gospel of Luke.
The skeptical Asimovís Guide to the Bible p.914-915 says, "We can search for more hints in the fact that the same author who wrote Luke almost certainly wrote the Acts of the Apostles as well, the book in which the events of the decades following the crucifixion are given, particularly matters concerning the travels of the Apostle Paul.
There are indications that the writer of Acts was actually a companion of Paul who accompanied him on his travels."
Luke is also mentioned in Colossians 4:14, 2 Timothy 4:11, and Philemon 24.
Q: When was the book of Acts written?
A: There are two views.
1. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.351 and the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.23 say that nobody knows for sure. However, since Luke would likely have mentioned Paulís death, the persecutions of Nero, and the fall of Jerusalem if they had occurred, Luke might have written the book of Acts between 61 and 64 A.D. Others say 63-70 A.D. due to silence of later events.
2. The Believerís Bible Commentary p.1576 agrees with the previous view. However, in support of a later date, it mentions an intriguing argument. It was possible that Luke was planning a third volume (though it was not in Godís will), so Luke could have written later and planned the later events for the third volume.
Clement of Rome (96-98 A.D.) quotes 1/4 of Acts 20:35f (5 words out of 26 words) 1 Clement vol.1 ch.2 p.5 and Polycarp (100-155 A.D.) quotes half of Acts 2:24a (7 out of 15 Greek words) Polycarpís Letter to the Philippians ch.1 p.33. It was definitely written before 96-98 A.D.
Q: Was Acts was this book written in the second century (long after Lukeís death) as the liberal Tubingen school claimed?
A: They claimed this because of the many parallel facts given in both Acts and the works of Josephus. (Josephus wrote Antiquities of the Jews c.93-94 A.D.)
However, the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.23 says that one would expect this if Luke had access to many of the same sources Josephus used. In addition, Irenaeus (182-188 A.D.) Clement of Alexandria (193-202 A.D.) the Muratorian Canon (170-210 A.D.), Origen (225-254 A.D.) and Pamphilus (martyred 309 A.D.) all say that Luke wrote Acts.
Q: In Acts, how do we know that scripture today is a reliable preservation of what was originally written?
A: There are at least three good reasons.
1. God promised to preserve His word in Isaiah 55:10-11; Isaiah 59:21; Isaiah 40:6-8; 1 Peter 1:24-25; and Matthew 24:35.
2. Evidence of the early church. Here are the writers who referred to verses in Acts.
Clement of Rome (97/98 A.D.) quotes 1/4 of Acts 20:35f (5 words out of 26 words) 1 Clement vol.1 ch.2 p.5
The Epistle of Barnabas (c.100-150 A.D.) ch.7 p.142 alludes to Acts 14:22
Polycarp (100-155 A.D.) quotes half of Acts 2:24a (7 out of 15 Greek words) Polycarpís Letter to the Philippians ch.1 p.33. He also quotes Acts 17:31 in ch.2 p.33
The Shepherd of Hermas (160 A.D.) book 1 ch.2 p.18 quotes half of Acts 4:12.
Justin Martyr (c.138-165 A.D.). clearly paraphrases Acts 1:9 in On the Resurrection ch.9 p.298
Christians of Vienna and Lugdunum (177 A.D.) quote half of Acts 7:60 "even as Stephen the perfect Witness, ĎLord, lay not this sin to their charge.í" Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.8 p.784.
Irenaeus who wrote Against Heresies from 182-188 A.D., in 48 places refers to 88 verses in Acts.
Irenaeus (182-188 A.D.) quotes Acts 8:9-11,20,21,23 (Simon the Sorcerer) as written by Luke. Irenaeus Against Heresies book 1 ch.23.1 p.347
The Muratorian Canon (190-217 A.D.) ANF vol.5 canon 2 p.603 "Moreover, the Acts of the Apostles are comprised by Luke in one book,"
Clement of Alexandria (193-217/220 A.D.) quotes 48 verses in Acts: 1:7; 2:26-28, half of 2:41; 6:2; 8:22a; 10:10-15,34,35; 15:23,28,29, 17:18,22,23,22,28, 26:17-18. He alludes to 9 verses in Acts: 3:14,17,19,21; 5:1; 8:30; 10:24; 17:15 (mention of Athens); 17:30.
Clement of Alexandria (193-202 A.D.) quotes Acts 17:22,23 saying, "Luke in Acts of the Apostles" Stromata (193-202 A.D.) book 5 ch.12 p.464. He also quotes "Peter in the Acts in Stromata book 6 ch.8 p.494.
Tertullian (198-220 A.D.) mentions by name the Acts of the Apostles in On the Resurrection of the Flesh ch.39)
Tertullian makes many quotes and allusions from Acts, saying it was in the Acts of the Apostles in Five Books Against Marcion book 5 ch.2 p.432-433
Hippolytus (222-235/236 A.D.) "quotes Jeremiah 23:18 and Acts 10:36 then immediately says, "These things then, brethren, are declared by the Scriptures." Against the Heresy of One Noetus ch.13-14 p.228
Origen (225-254 A.D.) "...as Luke relates in the Acts of the Apostles" Origen Against Celsus book 6 ch.11 p.578
Novatian (250-257A.D.) quotes 3 / 4 of Acts 2:17 (also Joel 2:28 ) as prophesied by Joel and given by Christ. Treatise on the Trinity ch.29 p.640
Treatise on Rebaptism ch.1,2 p.668 (250-258 A.D.) "And therefore we shall, as is needful, collect into one mass whatever passages of the Holy Scriptures are pertinent to this subject." Then in chapter 2 he quotes Matthew 3:11b and Acts 1:4,5 as Acts of the Apostles, Acts 11:15-17, Acts 15:5,8
Treatise on Rebaptism (c.250-258 A.D.) ch.12 p.674 quotes Acts 15:13-7, mentions by name James speaking in the Acts of the Apostles.
Cyprian of Carthage (c.246-258 A.D.) "divine Scripture proves this, when it says, ĎBut the multitude of them which believed were of one heart and of one soul.í [Acts 4:32] And again: ĎThese all continued with one mind in prayer with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren.í" [Acts 1:14] Treatises of Cyprian Treatise 1 ch.25 p.429
Cyprian of Carthage (c.246-258 A.D.) quotes from "Acts of the Apostles" in his Treatise 12 the third book 3,43.
Cyprian of Carthage (c.246-258 A.D.) mentions the Acts of the Apostles and quotes Acts 5:3,4 in Treatises of Cyprian - Testimonies ch.30 p.543. See also Letter 72 ch.17 p.383.
Pontiusí Life and Passion of Cyprian (after 258 A.D.) ch.3 p.268 refers to Acts 8:37 as "in the Acts of the Apostles"
Dionysius of Alexandria (246-265 A.D.) quotes to Acts 13:5,13 as "in the Acts of the Apostles" From the Two Books on Promises ch.5 p.83.
Adamantius (c.300 A.D.) mentions "the Acts of the Apostles" Dialogue on the True Faith second part 12d p.90.
Victorinus bishop of Petau in Austria (martyred 304 A.D.) mentions Acts of the Apostles Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John p.355
Pamphilus (martyred 309 A.D.) we have preserved his outline of the Acts of the Apostles. Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.6 p.166-168.
Peter of Alexandria (306,285-311 A.D.) quotes Acts 7:59 as Stephen is speaking. The Canonical Epistle canon 9 p.273.
Council of Neocaesarea (c.315 A.D.) Canon 15 p.86 "The deacons ought to be seven in number, according to the canon, even if the city be great. Of this you will be persuaded from the Book of Acts."
Athanasius (c.318 A.D.) prior to Nicea quotes part of Paulís speech in Acts 14:15 as by Paul. Against the Heathen part 3 ch.35 p.22
Lactantius (c.303-c.325 A.D.) alludes to Acts 1:9, saying "He [Jesus] might proceed to His Father borne aloft on a cloud." The Divine Institutes book 4 ch.12 p.111
Eusebius of Caesarea (323-326 A.D.) says that is in "the sacred book of Acts" Ecclesiastical History book 2 ch.18 Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series vol.1 p.122 Luke wrote Acts of the Apostles. ibid ch.22 p.124
Eusebius of Caesarea (323-339/340 A.D.) refers to Acts 12:3 as "as the divine Scripture says" Eusebiusí Ecclesiastical History book 2 ch.9 p.111
Eustathius of Antioch (before 337 A.D.) refers to Acts 16:17 and other verses.
Aphrahat the Syrian (337-345 A.D.) alludes to Acts in Select Demonstrations
The Arian heretic Candidusí letter to Marius (359-362 A.D.)
Hegemonius of Sirmium (3rd century A.D.) translating Archelaus (262-278 A.D.) quotes Acts 2:6 as Scripture. Disputation with Manes ch.36 p.210.
Archelaus also quotes Acts 9:15 in Disputation with Manes ch.34 p.208. He possibly alludes to Acts 9:40 in Fragment 1 p.234. He does not refer to any other verses in Acts.
Synod of Laodicea (in Phrygia) (343-381 A.D.) canon 60 p.159 lists the books of the Old Testament and the New Testament. Canon 59 p.158 says only the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments may be read in church.
Victorinus of Rome (after 363 A.D.)
Athanasius (367 A.D.) "Again it is not tedious to speak of the [books] of the New Testament. These are, the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Afterwards, the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles (called Catholic), seven, viz. of James, one; of Peter, two; of John, three; after these, one of Jude. In addition, there are fourteen Epistles of Paul, written in this order. The first, to the Romans; then two to the Corinthians; after these, to the Galatians; next, to the Ephesians; then to the Philippians; then to the Colossians; after these, two to the Thessalonians, and that to the Hebrews; and again, two to Timothy; one to Titus; and lastly, that to Philemon. And besides, the Revelation of John." Athanasiusí Festal Letter 39 ch.5 p.552
Hilary of Poitiers (355-367/368 A.D.) quotes Acts 1:7 as by Jesus. On the Trinity book 9 ch.75 p.181
Synopsis Scripturae Sacrae (350-370 A.D. or 5th century) mentions Acts as part of the New Testament. It quotes all of Acts 1:1.
Ephraem the Syrian (350-378 A.D.) quotes Acts 22:11 and 26:13 in Three Homilies Homily 1 ch.26 and 27 p.316.
Basil of Cappadocia (357-378/379 A.D.)
Ambrosiaster (after 384 A.D.)
Cyril of Jerusalem (c.349-386 A.D.) mentions the Acts of the Apostles in Lecture 14.28 p.102
Cheltenham Canon (=Mommson Catalogue) (c.360-370 A.D.) mentions each of the four gospels, Acts, Paulís letters, 1 Peter, 1 John, and Revelation.
Ambrose of Milan (370-390 A.D.)
Gregory Nanzianzen (330-391 A.D.)
Pacian of Barcelona (342-379/392 A.D.) mentions Paul quoting a Greek poet (Acts 17:28-29) in "Acts of the Apostles" Letter 4.2 p.31
Gregory of Elvira (after 392 A.D.)
Gregory of Nyssa (c.356-397 A.D.) mentions Acts in Second Book Against Eunomius p.274 and p.276.
Gregory of Nyssa (c.356-397 A.D.) quotes Acts 2:36 in Against Eunomius book 5 ch.3 p.177
Amphilochius (-397 A.D.) refers to Acts 15:24 and other passages in Iambi ad Seleucum
Didymus the Blind (398 A.D.) alludes to Acts 13:8-11. Commentary on Zechariah 11 p.285
The schismatic Lucifer of Cagliari (361-399 A.D.) refers to Acts 12:23
Syrian Catalogue of St. Catherineís (ca.400 A.D.) refers to the four gospels, Acts, Romans, and Galatians through Hebrews.
Maximinus (4th/5th century)
Maximus of Turin (4th/5th century)
The Donatist schismatic Petilianus (4th/5th century)
Epiphanius of Salamis (360-403 A.D.) mentions the four gospels, 14 letters of Paul, James, Peter, John, Jude, Acts, Apocalypse of John, Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach (=Ecclesiasticus).
Pope Innocent I of Rome (ca. 405 A.D.)
Rufinus (374-406 A.D.) translating Origen (225-254 A.D.) refers to Acts 7 as the Acts of the Apostles de Principiis book 2 ch.4.2 p.276
Donatist schismatic Gaudentius (after 406 A.D.)
John Chrysostom (392-407 A.D.) wrote down 55 sermons on Acts.
Chromatius (died 407 A.D.)
Severian (after 408 A.D.)
Asterius of Emesa (c.410 A.D.)
Orosius/Hosius of Braga (414-418 A.D.) alludes to Acts 6:11-13 Defense Against the Pelagians ch.8 p.124
Council of Carthage (393-419 A.D.) (218 bishops)
Jerome (373-420 A.D.) discusses the books of the New Testament. He specifically each of the four gospels, Paul writings to the seven churches, Hebrews, Paul wirting to Timothy , Titus, and Philemon. Jerome then discusses the Acts of the Apostles. Then he discusses the seven epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude. Finally he discusses the Apocalypse of John. Letter 53 ch.9 p.101-102.
Sulpicius/Sulpitius Severus (363-420 A.D.) mentions the Acts of the Apostles in History book 1 ch.36 p.89 and History book 2 ch.28 p.110
Augustine of Hippo (388-430 A.D.) quotes Acts 17:30,31 in The City of God book 18 ch.54 p.395
John Cassian (419-430 A.D.) mentions Acts 4:32-34 as in the Acts of the Apostles in the Institutes of John Cassian book 2.5 p.206
Council of Ephesus (431 A.D.) quotes from Acts.
Vincent of Lerins (c.434 A.D.)
Socrates of Constantinople (c.400-439 A.D.) refers to Acts 15:29 and other verses. Socratesí Ecclesiastical History
Cyril of Alexandria (444 A.D.)
Hesychius of Jerusalem (-450 A.D.) (pronounced HESS-us)
Speculum (fifth century)
Theodotus of Ancrya (fifth century)
Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.)
Quodvultdeus (c.453 A.D.)
Eucharius (ca.424-455 A.D.) Instructiones
Theodoret of Cyrus (bishop and historian) (423-458 A.D.)
Pope Leo I of Rome (461 A.D.)
Prosper Tyro of Aquitaine (425-465 A.D.) says Acts 10:45 is in the Acts of the Apostles
Varimadum (445/480 A.D.)
Proclus (412-485 A.D.)
John of Damascus (706-749 A.D.) "the Acts of the Holy Apostles by Luke the Evangelist:" Exposition of the Orthodox Faith ch.17 p.90
Evidence of heretics and spurious books
Apostolic Constitutions (uncertain date, about 380 A.D.)
The heretic Priscillian (c.385 A.D.)
The heretic Apollinaris of Laodicea (c.390 A.D.)
The Arian heretic Eunomius (c.360-c.394 A.D.) quotes Acts 2:36 as Peter is speaking. Apologetic Letter ch.25 p.71
The Pelagian heretic Theodore of Mopsuestia (392-423/429 A.D.) alludes to Stephen in Acts 7:42-43 as "in the Acts of the Holy Apostles". Commentary on Amos ch.5 p.154
Nestoriusí Bazaar of Heracleides (451/452 A.D.)
We still have all of these today.
3. Earliest manuscripts we have of Acts show there are small manuscript variations, but no theologically significant errors.
Q: In Acts, what are the earliest Bible manuscripts?
A: Here are most of them.
p8 (=Berlin Inv. 8683) Acts 4:31-37; 5:2-9; 6:1-6,8-15 (4th century)
4th century - 1968 - The Text of the New Testament.
p29 Acts 26:7-8,20. 200-225 A.D. A photograph of this manuscript is in The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts p.114. The scribe who wrote this manuscript made the following letters unusually: theta, pi, and epsilon. The manuscript p45 (Chester Beatty I) has the same unusual kind of handwriting. The date is given as 200-225 A.D. because the handwriting is similar to Papyrus Marmarica, which is almost certainly between 200-225 A.D. Alexandrian text.
3rd century - 1968 - The Text of the New Testament.
p33 Acts 7:6-10,13-18; 15:21-24, 26-32 (6th century) Agrees with Sinaiticus
6th century - 1968 - The Text of the New Testament does not have 7:6-10,13-18; 15:21; 15:26
6th century - 1975 - Aland et al. third edition
6th century - 1998 - Aland et al. fourth revised edition
p38 (=Ann Arbor Inv. 1570, =papyrus Michigan 137) Acts 18:27-19:6; 19:12-16 ca. 300 A.D. A photograph of this manuscript is in The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts p.134.
c.300 A.D. - 1968 - The Text of the New Testament
about 300 A.D. - 1975 - Aland et al. third edition
about 300 A.D. - 1998 - Aland et al. fourth revised edition
Late 2nd or early 3rd century - 1999 - The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts.
p41 (8th century) Acts 17:28-34; 18:1f,17f,22-25,27; 19:1-4,6-8,13-16,18f; 20:9-13,15f,22-24,26-38; 21:1-4,26f; 22:11-14,16f. Source: Wien, Papyrussammlung Nationalbibliothek, K. 7541- 7542 - 7543 - 7544 - 7545- 7546 - 7547 Ė 7548. Stud. Pal. 015 237; P.Weigandt, in K.Aland, Materialien (1969), p.54-72. ed. princ. (facsimile); J.Henner, H.Förster, U.Horak, Christliches mit Feder und Faden, Nilus 3 (1999), p.10 no.9
p45 Chester Beatty I (100-150 A.D.) All 4 gospels and 29% (289/1003 verses) of Acts. Acts 4:27-36; 5:10-20; (8 out of 33 letters in 5:21) 30-39; 6:7-7:2; 7:10-21; 7:32-41; 7:52-8:1; 8:14-15, 8:34-9:6; (8:37 was never written); 9:16-27; 9:35-10:2; 10:10-23, 31-41; 11:2-13; 11:24-12:6; 12:13-22; 13:6-16,25-36; 13:46-14:3; 14:15-23; 15:2-7,9-27; 15:38-16:4; 16:15-21,32-40; 17:9-17) At Acts 15:7 this scribe lost his place and repeated six verses from Acts 15:2. (Used to be thought late 2nd or early 3rd century or 200 A.D.)
3rd century - 1968 - The Text of the New Testament
3rd century - 1975 - Aland et al. third edition
3rd century - 1998 - Aland et al. fourth revised edition
Late 2nd or early 3rd century - 1999 - The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts.
p48 Acts 23:11-17,25-29 (c.220 or latter part of the 3rd century A.D.) A photograph of part of this manuscript is in The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts p.342. A photograph of Galatians 6:10-18 and the start of Philippians is in Paul : Apostle of the Heart Set Free p.384. According to A General Introduction to the Bible p.389 the original scroll was about 220 leaves, of which we have 30 leaves preserves. 13 of these leaves are from Acts.
End of 3rd century - 1968 - The Text of the New Testament also has 23:23-24
p50 (Papyrus Yale 1543) Acts 8:26-32; 10:26-31 The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts p.352 says Aland dated this to the 4th or 5th century, "but Yale editors argue quite persuasively for a dating to the reign of Diocletian (A.D. 284-305)."
p53 Matthew 26:29-30 and Acts 9:33-38; (3 letters of Acts 9:39b); Acts 9:40-10:1. c.260 A.D. A photograph of part of this manuscript (showing Matthew 26:29-35) is in The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts p.360. The date is based on similarities to Letters of Heroninos date c.260 A.D.
3rd century - 1968 - The Text of the New Testament
p56 Acts 1:1,4-5,7,10-11 (5th to 6th century) Alexandrian text
5th/6th century - 1968 - The Text of the New Testament
p57 Acts 4:36-5:2; 5:8-10 (4th or 5th century) Alexandrian text
4th/5th century - 1968 - The Text of the New Testament
p58 same original as p33. Here is the information on p33. Acts 7:6-10,13-18; 15:21-24, 26-32 (6th century) Agrees with Sinaiticus
6th century - 1968 - The Text of the New Testament says it does not have 7:6-10,13-18; 15:21; 15:26
6th century - 1975 - Aland et al. third edition
6th century - 1998 - Aland et al. fourth revised edition
p74 (=Bodmer 17) Acts 1:2-5,7-11,13-15,18-19,22-25; 2:2-4; 2:6-3:26; 4:2-6,8-27; 4:29-27:25; 27:27-28:31; James 1:1-6,8-19,21-23,25; 1:27; 2:1-3; 2:4?; 2:5-15; 18-22, 25-26; 3:1,5-6,10-12,14,17-18; 4:8,11-14; 5:1-3,7-9,12-14,19-20; 1 Peter 1:1-2,7-8; 1:12?; 1:13,19-20,25; 2:6-7,11-12,18,24; 3:4-5; 2 Peter 2:21; 3:4,11,16; 1 John 1:1,6; 2:1-2,7,13-14,18-19,25-26; 3:1-2,8,14,19-20; 4:1,6-7,12,16-17;5:3-4,9-10,17; 2 John 1,6-7,13; 3 John 6,12; Jude 3,7,12,18,24 (7th century)
7th century - 1968 - The Text of the New Testament has James 2:4 and 1 Peter 1:12
7th century - 1975 - Aland et al. third edition
6th century - 1998 - Aland et al. fourth revised edition
p91 (=Sidney Inv. 360) Acts 2:30-37; 2:46-3:2 middle 3rd century. The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts p.612 says this is just one leaf (two fragments) "written in a documentary hand".
p112 (=papyrus Oxyrhynchus 4496) Acts 26:31-32; 27:6-7 (5th century)
Uncial 0165 (Berlin 5th century) Acts 3:25; 4:1; 4:6; 4:8; 4:10 plus probably other verses.
Uncial 0189 Acts 5:3-21. is one of the oldest uncials: late 2nd or early 3rd century. A photograph of this manuscript (showing some decay holes in the text) is in The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts p.642.
Vaticanus [B] (325-350 A.D.)
Sinaiticus [Si] (340-350 A.D.) has all of Acts. After Paulís letters (including Hebrews), ending with Philemon, is a blank ruled page, and then Acts. After Acts is the book of James.
Alexandrinus [A] (c.450 A.D.)
Bohairic Coptic [Boh] 3rd/4th century
Sahidic Coptic [Sah] 3rd/4rth century
Meg. Coptic [Meg]
Fayyumic Coptic [Fay] 3th/4th century
Ephraemi Rescriptus [C] 5th century
Latin Vulgate [Vg] 4th and 5th centuries
Armenian [Arm] from 5th century
Georgian [Geo] from 5th century
Cambridge 5th/6th century
Ethiopic [Eth] from c.500 A.D.
Gothic 493-555 A.D.
Philoxenian Syriac [SyrPh] 507/508 A.D.
Harclean Syriac [SyrH] 616 A.D.
Byzantine [Byz] (The Byzantine family contains from 1,761 to 2,209 separate manuscripts. These are from about 850 A.D. to 1576 A.D.)
See www.Biblequery.org/actsMss.html for more on early manuscripts of Acts.
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