Herod the district ruler: See study note on Mt 14:1.
were ministering: Or “were publicly ministering.” The Greek word lei·tour·geʹo used here and the related words lei·tour·giʹa (public service, or ministry) and lei·tour·gosʹ (public servant, or worker) were used by the ancient Greeks to refer to work or service performed for the State or for civil authorities and to the benefit of the people. For example, at Ro 13:6, the secular authorities are called God’s “public servants” (plural form of lei·tour·gosʹ) in the sense that they provide beneficial services for the people. At Lu 1:23 (see study note), the term lei·tour·giʹa is rendered “holy service” (or, “public service”) regarding the ministry of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. In that verse, the use of the word lei·tour·giʹa reflects how it and related terms are used in the Septuagint in connection with the service performed by priests and Levites at the tabernacle (Ex 28:35; Nu 1:50; 3:31; 8:22) and at the temple (2Ch 31:2; 35:3; Joe 1:9, 13; 2:17). Such service included the idea of a ministry for the benefit of the people. However, the idea of holiness was included in some contexts because the Levitical priests taught God’s Law (2Ch 15:3; Mal 2:7) and offered sacrifices that covered the sins of the people (Le 1:3-5; De 18:1-5). At Ac 13:2, the Greek word lei·tour·geʹo is used in a more general sense, describing the ministering by Christian prophets and teachers in the congregation in Antioch of Syria. The word refers to the different expressions of devotion and service to God, including such aspects of the Christian ministry as prayer, preaching, and teaching. The ministry performed by these prophets and teachers no doubt included preaching to the public.—Ac 13:3.
ministering to Jehovah: The Greek word lei·tour·geʹo (to minister; to serve) used in this verse often appears in the Septuagint rendering of Hebrew Scripture passages where the divine name is found in the original Hebrew text. For example, at 2Ch 13:10, the same Greek expression found at Ac 13:2 is used in the Septuagint to render the Hebrew phrase “ministering to Jehovah.” At 2Ch 35:3, the same Greek words are used to render the Hebrew phrase “serve Jehovah.”—1Sa 2:11; 3:1; Eze 45:4; Joe 2:17; see App. C3 introduction; Ac 13:2.
Seleucia: A fortified Mediterranean port town serving Syrian Antioch and located about 20 km (12 mi) SW of that city. The two sites were connected by road and by the navigable Orontes River, which flowed past Antioch and emptied into the Mediterranean Sea a short distance S of Seleucia. Seleucus I (Nicator), one of the generals of Alexander the Great, founded the city and named it after himself. Accompanied by Barnabas, Paul sailed from Seleucia at the start of his first missionary journey, in about 47 C.E. Seleucia was just N of Süveydiye, or Samandag, in modern-day Turkey. Silt from the Orontes has converted ancient Seleucia’s harbor into a marsh.—See App. B13.
they sailed away to Cyprus: A journey of about 200 km (125 mi). If winds were favorable, a first-century ship could travel about 150 km (93 mi) in a day. In unfavorable conditions, such a journey could take much longer. Cyprus was Barnabas’ home.—See App. B13.
Salamis: Located on the E side of the island of Cyprus, Salamis was a sensible choice to start the preaching tour in Cyprus, although Paphos, located on the W coast, was the Roman capital. Salamis was closer to the missionaries’ starting point near Syrian Antioch, and it was the cultural, educational, and commercial center of the island. There was also a sizable population of Jews in Salamis, a city that had more than one synagogue. Barnabas, a native of Cyprus, no doubt served as an able guide for the group. Depending on the route taken, the men may have walked at least 150 km (about 100 mi) as they preached throughout the island.—See App. B13.
John: That is, John Mark, one of Jesus’ disciples, “the cousin of Barnabas” (Col 4:10), and the writer of the Gospel of Mark. (See study note on Mark Title.) He is also called John at Ac 13:13, but the other three verses in Acts where he is mentioned add “who was [or, “the one also”] called Mark,” his Roman surname. (Ac 12:12, 25; 15:37) John is the English equivalent of the Hebrew name Jehohanan or Johanan, which means “Jehovah Has Shown Favor; Jehovah Has Been Gracious.” Elsewhere in the Christian Greek Scriptures, he is referred to as “Mark.”—Col 4:10; 2Ti 4:11; Phm 24; 1Pe 5:13.
proconsul: The title of the governor of a province administered by the Roman Senate. Some Roman provinces, such as Judea, were imperial provinces under the direct rule of the emperor, who appointed a governor. Because Cyprus became a senatorial province in 22 B.C.E., it was governed by a proconsul. A coin from Cyprus has been found with the head and title of Roman Emperor Claudius (in Latin) on one side and “Under Cominius Proclus, Proconsul of the Cyprians” (in Greek) on the other side.—See Glossary.
Saul, also called Paul: From this point on, Saul is referred to as Paul. The apostle was born a Hebrew with Roman citizenship. (Ac 22:27, 28; Php 3:5) It is therefore likely that from childhood, he had both the Hebrew name Saul and the Roman name Paul. It was not unusual for Jews of that time, particularly among those living outside Israel, to have two names. (Ac 12:12; 13:1) Some of Paul’s relatives likewise had Roman and Greek names. (Ro 16:7, 21) As “an apostle to the nations,” Paul was commissioned to declare the good news to non-Jews. (Ro 11:13) He apparently decided to use his Roman name; he might have felt that it would be more acceptable. (Ac 9:15; Ga 2:7, 8) Some have suggested that he adopted the Roman name in honor of Sergius Paulus, which seems unlikely, since Paul retained the name even after leaving Cyprus. Others have suggested that Paul avoided using his Hebrew name because its Greek pronunciation sounded similar to a Greek word that referred to a person (or an animal) who swaggered when walking.—See study note on Ac 7:58.
Paul: In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the name Pauʹlos, from Latin Paulus, meaning “Little; Small,” is used 157 times when referring to the apostle Paul and once when referring to the proconsul of Cyprus named Sergius Paulus.—Ac 13:7.
ways of Jehovah: Paul’s reply to the Jewish sorcerer Bar-Jesus (recorded in verses 10 and 11) contains several expressions that have a background in the Hebrew Scriptures. Some examples are: The Greek phrase here rendered “distorting . . . ways” is found at Pr 10:9 (“making his ways crooked”) in the Septuagint. The Greek words that appear in the phrase “the right ways of Jehovah” also appear in the Septuagint rendering of Hos 14:9. In that verse, the original Hebrew text uses the divine name (“For the ways of Jehovah are upright”).—See App. C3 introduction; Ac 13:10.
the teaching of Jehovah: The expression “the teaching of Jehovah” is synonymous with “the word of God,” used at Ac 13:5. That verse says that when Paul and his companions arrived in Cyprus, they “began proclaiming the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews.” As a result, the proconsul Sergius Paulus was “eager to hear the word of God.” (Ac 13:7) After witnessing what Paul said and did, Sergius Paulus was astounded at what he learned about Jehovah God and the teaching originating from Him.—See App. C3 introduction; Ac 13:12.
Antioch in Pisidia: A city in the Roman province of Galatia. This city was situated on the border of the regions of Phrygia and Pisidia, so at different times in history it might have been considered part of one of these regions. The ruins of the city are located near Yalvaç in modern-day Turkey. Pisidian Antioch is referred to here and at Ac 14:19, 21. Anyone traveling from Perga, a city near the Mediterranean Coast, to Pisidian Antioch faced a difficult trek; this city was about 1,100 m (3,600 ft) above sea level (see App. B13), and bandits roamed the treacherous mountain passages. “Antioch in Pisidia” is not to be confused with Antioch in Syria. (Ac 6:5; 11:19; 13:1; 14:26; 15:22; 18:22) In fact, most of the occurrences of the name Antioch in Acts refer, not to Pisidian Antioch, but to Syrian Antioch.
the public reading of the Law and the Prophets: In the first century C.E., this public reading was done “on every Sabbath.” (Ac 15:21) One feature of synagogue worship was the reciting of the Shema, or what amounted to the Jewish confession of faith. (De 6:4-9; 11:13-21) The Shema received its name from the first word of the first scripture used, “Listen [Shemaʽʹ], O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” (De 6:4) The most important part of the service was the reading of the Torah, or Pentateuch. In many synagogues, the entire Law was scheduled to be read in the course of one year; in others, the program took three years. Portions of the Prophets were also read and explained. At the conclusion of the public reading, a discourse was given. It was after the public reading in the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch that Paul was invited to speak words of encouragement to those assembled.—See study note on Lu 4:16.
during about 450 years: Paul’s discussion of Israelite history begins with a significant event, namely, when God “chose our forefathers.” (Ac 13:17) Paul apparently had in mind the time when Isaac was actually born as the promised offspring. (Ge 17:19; 21:1-3; 22:17, 18) Isaac’s birth definitely settled the question as to whom God would recognize as this offspring, an issue that had been in doubt because of Sarai’s (Sarah’s) barrenness. (Ge 11:30) From this starting point, Paul recounts God’s acts in behalf of His chosen nation down to the time when He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. The period of “about 450 years,” therefore, apparently spans from Isaac’s birth in 1918 B.C.E. to the year 1467 B.C.E. This period extends 46 years after the start of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt, in 1513 B.C.E. This end point is appropriate because the Israelites spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness and 6 years conquering the land of Canaan.—Nu 9:1; 13:1, 2, 6; De 2:7; Jos 14:6, 7, 10.
offspring: Or “descendants.” Lit., “seed.”—See App. A2.
the stake: Or “the tree.”—See study note on Ac 5:30.
tomb: Or “memorial tomb.”—See Glossary, “Memorial tomb.”
rendered service to God: Or “served the will (purpose) of God.”—See study note on Ac 20:27.
who worshipped God: The Greek word seʹbo·mai, here rendered “who worshipped God,” means “to worship; to revere; to venerate.” It could also be rendered “God-fearing; devout.” (See study note on Ac 13:50.) The Syriac Peshitta renders it “who feared God.” One translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew (referred to as J18 in App. C4) uses the divine name here and the whole expression can be rendered “who feared Jehovah.”
the undeserved kindness of God: In view of Paul’s background as a resister of Jesus and his followers (Ac 9:3-5), Paul had every reason to emphasize Jehovah’s undeserved kindness. (See Glossary, “Undeserved kindness.”) Paul realized that it was only by God’s undeserved kindness that he was able to carry out his ministry. (1Co 15:10; 1Ti 1:13, 14) When meeting with the elders from Ephesus, he speaks of this quality twice. (Ac 20:24, 32) In his 14 letters, Paul mentions “undeserved kindness” some 90 times, far more than any other Bible writer. For example, he refers to the undeserved kindness of God or of Jesus in the opening salutations of all his letters except his letter to the Hebrews, and he uses the expression in the closing remarks of every letter.
Jehovah has commanded us in these words: The quote that follows in this verse is taken from Isa 49:6, where the context of the original Hebrew text clearly identifies Jehovah as the one speaking. (Isa 49:5; compare Isa 42:6.) The fulfillment of the prophecy involves the work that Jehovah’s Servant, Jesus Christ, and his followers would do.—Isa 42:1; see study note on Lu 2:32 and App. C3 introduction; Ac 13:47.
to the ends of the earth: Or “to the most distant part of the earth.” This prophecy is quoted from Isa 49:6, where the same Greek expression appears in the Septuagint. Isaiah foretold that Jehovah’s servant would be “a light of nations” and that salvation from God would “reach the ends of the earth.” When speaking in Pisidian Antioch, Paul and Barnabas indicated that these prophetic words constituted a command from Jehovah that Christ’s followers should serve as a light to the nations. The Greek expression, here rendered “to the ends of the earth,” is also used at Ac 1:8 (see study note) to show the extent to which Jesus’ followers would be witnesses of him.
were rightly disposed for: This expression describes certain Gentiles in Pisidian Antioch who became believers after hearing Paul and Barnabas preach. The Greek word here rendered “were rightly disposed for” (a form of the verb tasʹso) has a wide range of meaning, including “to set; to position; to arrange; to appoint.” The context helps to determine the intended meaning. Ac 13:46 contrasts certain Jews of Pisidian Antioch with the Gentiles mentioned here in verse 48. On the preceding Sabbath, Paul had given both groups a thorough witness by means of a stirring public discourse. (Ac 13:16-41) According to Paul and Barnabas, the Jews stubbornly rejected “the word of God” and showed by their attitude and actions that they did not “judge [themselves] worthy of everlasting life.” (Ac 13:46) The Gentiles in that city, however, showed a very different attitude. The account says that they began to rejoice and to glorify the word of Jehovah. So in this context, the Greek verb tasʹso conveys the idea that these non-Jews in Antioch “put themselves in a position for” gaining life by showing an attitude, inclination, or disposition that could result in their gaining everlasting life. So the Greek term is appropriately rendered “were rightly disposed for.” Many Bible translations, though, render Ac 13:48 with such expressions as “were destined for; were appointed for,” which could give the impression that these people were predestined by God to gain life. However, neither the immediate context nor the rest of the Bible supports the idea that these Gentiles in Antioch were predestined to gain life, any more than the Jews there were predestined not to gain everlasting life. Paul tried to persuade the Jews to accept the good news, but they made a conscious choice to reject the message. They were not predestined to do so. Jesus explained that some would show by their actions that they are not “well-suited for the Kingdom of God.” (Lu 9:62) By contrast, these Gentiles in Antioch were among those whom Jesus said would show by their attitude that they are “deserving” of the good news.—Mt 10:11, 13.
who were God-fearing: Or “who worshipped God.” The Greek word seʹbo·mai may also be rendered “to revere; to venerate.” The Syriac Peshitta renders the expression “who feared God.” Some translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew (referred to as J7, 8, 10, 18 in App. C4) use the divine name here, and the expression can be rendered “who feared Jehovah.”
they shook the dust off their feet against them: Paul and Barnabas here applied Jesus’ instruction recorded at Mt 10:14; Mr 6:11; Lu 9:5. Pious Jews who had traveled through Gentile country would shake what they perceived to be unclean dust off their sandals before reentering Jewish territory. However, Jesus apparently had a different meaning in mind when giving these instructions to his disciples. This gesture signified that the disciples disclaimed responsibility for the consequences that would come from God. When Paul did something similar in Corinth by shaking out his garments, he added the explanatory words: “Let your blood be on your own heads. I am clean.”—See study note on Ac 18:6.