Timothy: In the Bible, this is the first mention of Timothy, whose Greek name means “One Who Honors God.” It is not known precisely when Timothy embraced Christianity. However, his believing Jewish mother, Eunice, and probably also his grandmother Lois taught him from his early childhood “the holy writings” found in the Hebrew Scriptures, as the Jews understood them. (2Ti 1:5; 3:15) It is very likely that Eunice and Lois became Christians when Paul visited Lystra during his first missionary tour. Timothy’s father was called a Greek, meaning either that his ancestors were from Greece or that he was a member of another race. He was apparently not a Christian. During Paul’s second missionary tour, in late 49 or early 50 C.E., Paul came to Lystra, apparently Timothy’s hometown. At that time, Timothy was a Christian disciple who “was well-reported-on by the brothers in Lystra and Iconium.” (Ac 16:2) Timothy may then have been in his late teens or early 20’s, a conclusion supported by Paul’s statement to Timothy some 10 or 15 years later when he said: “Never let anyone look down on your youth.” (1Ti 4:12, likely written between 61 and 64 C.E.) This indicates that even then, Timothy was a relatively young man.
circumcised him: Paul well knew that circumcision was not a Christian requirement. (Ac 15:6-29) Timothy, whose father was an unbeliever, had not been circumcised. Paul knew that this might stumble some of the Jews whom they would visit together on their preaching tour. Instead of allowing this obstacle to impede their work, Paul asked Timothy to submit to this painful surgery. Both men thus exemplified what Paul himself later wrote to the Corinthians: “To the Jews I became as a Jew in order to gain Jews.”—1Co 9:20.
the apostles and the elders who were in Jerusalem: As shown in the study note on Ac 15:2, some elders in the nation of Israel served in positions of responsibility on a national level. Likewise, these elders in Jerusalem together with the apostles formed a governing body for all the Christian congregations in the first century C.E. After handling the issue of circumcision, these apostles and elders made their decision known to the congregations, and it was accepted as authoritative.
the province of Asia: See Glossary, “Asia.”
the spirit of Jesus: Apparently referring to Jesus’ use of the holy spirit, or active force, which he had “received . . . from the Father.” (Ac 2:33) As head of the Christian congregation, Jesus used the spirit to direct the preaching work of the first Christians, indicating where they should concentrate their efforts. In this case, Jesus used “the holy spirit” to prevent Paul and his traveling companions from preaching in the province of Asia and the province of Bithynia. (Ac 16:6-10) These regions, however, were later reached with the good news.—Ac 18:18-21; 1Pe 1:1, 2.
passed by: Or “passed through.” The Greek verb pa·rerʹkho·mai, here rendered “passed by,” allows for the idea of traveling through the area, which is apparently what Paul and his companions did. The seaport of Troas was in the region of Mysia, located in the NW part of Asia Minor. They had to travel through Mysia to reach Troas, so they “passed by Mysia” in the sense that they traveled through the area without stopping to do extensive preaching there.
Macedonia: See Glossary.
we: Up to Ac 16:9, the book of Acts is narrated strictly in the third person, that is, the writer Luke reports only what others said and did. Here at Ac 16:10, however, there is a change in that style, and Luke includes himself in the narrative. From this point on, he uses the pronouns “we” and “us” in sections of the book where he was apparently accompanying Paul and his traveling companions. (See study note on Ac 1:1 and “Introduction to Acts.”) Luke first accompanied Paul from Troas to Philippi in about 50 C.E., but when Paul left Philippi, Luke was no longer with him.—Ac 16:10-17, 40; see study notes on Ac 20:5; 27:1.
declare the good news: See study note on Ac 5:42.
Philippi: This city was originally called Crenides (Krenides). Philip II of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great) took the city from the Thracians about the middle of the fourth century B.C.E. and named it after himself. There were rich gold mines in the area, and gold coins were issued in Philip’s name. About 168 B.C.E., the Roman consul Lucius Aemilius Paulus defeated Perseus, the last of the Macedonian kings, and took Philippi and the surrounding territory. In 146 B.C.E., all Macedonia was formed into a single Roman province. The battle in which Octavian (Octavius) and Mark Antony defeated the armies of Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, assassins of Julius Caesar, took place on the Plain of Philippi in 42 B.C.E. Afterward, as a memorial of his great victory, Octavian made Philippi a Roman colony. Some years later, when Octavian was made Caesar Augustus by the Roman Senate, he named the town Colonia Augusta Julia Philippensis.—See App. B13.
a river: Many scholars identify the river with the Gangites, located 2.4 km (1.5 mi) W of Philippi, more than a sabbath day’s journey away. Some feel that because of Philippi’s military character, the Jews may have been forbidden to assemble for worship inside the city and had to meet far away. Others favor the Crenides (Krenides), a small stream that is closer to the city and is locally called the stream of Lydia. However, Roman tombs have been found there, and since it was an area in public view, some feel that it would have been an unlikely place for prayer. Still others suggest the area of a now-dry streambed that was outside the Neapolis Gate, where a number of churches were built in the fourth or fifth century C.E. to commemorate Paul’s visit to Philippi.
a place of prayer: Perhaps the Jews were forbidden to have a synagogue in the city because of Philippi’s military character. Or the city might have lacked ten Jewish males—the minimum number traditionally required for establishing a synagogue.
a woman named Lydia: Lydia is named only twice in the Bible, here and at Ac 16:40. There is documentary evidence to show that Lydia was used as a proper name, though some believe that Lydia was a nickname meaning “Lydian Woman.” Lydia and her household became Christians about 50 C.E. in Philippi, so they were among the first individuals in Europe to embrace Christianity as a result of Paul’s preaching. Lydia—who possibly never married or was a widow—had a generous spirit that enabled her to enjoy rewarding association with missionaries Paul, Silas, and Luke.—Ac 16:15.
a seller of purple: Lydia may have traded in purple goods of various kinds, including purple fabric, clothing, tapestries, dyes, or other items. She was originally from Thyatira, a city of western Asia Minor in the region called Lydia. An inscription found in Philippi testifies to the presence of a guild of sellers of purple in that city. The Lydians and their neighbors were famed for their skill in the dyeing of purple since the days of Homer (ninth or eighth century B.C.E.). Since Lydia’s trade required substantial capital and she had a large house capable of hosting four men—Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke—in all likelihood she was a successful and wealthy merchant. The reference to “her household” could mean that she lived with relatives, but it could also imply that she had slaves and servants. (Ac 16:15) And the fact that before leaving the city, Paul and Silas met with some brothers in this hospitable woman’s home suggests that it became a meeting place for the first Christians in Philippi.—Ac 16:40.
Jehovah opened her heart wide: Lydia is identified as a worshipper of God, an expression that indicates that she was a Jewish proselyte. (Ac 13:43) On the Sabbath, she had gathered with other women at a place of prayer at a river outside Philippi. (Ac 16:13) It may be that there were few Jews and no synagogue in Philippi. Lydia may have become acquainted with the worship of Jehovah in her home city, Thyatira, which had a large Jewish population and a Jewish meeting place. Jehovah, the God whom she worshipped, noticed that she was listening attentively.—See App. C3 introduction; Ac 16:14.
faithful to Jehovah: As shown in the study note in the preceding verse, Lydia’s background as a Jewish proselyte makes it logical that she had Jehovah in mind. She had just heard about Jesus Christ from Paul’s preaching but had not yet shown that she was faithful to Jesus. It seems logical, then, that she was referring to her faithfulness to the God whom she had already been worshipping, Jehovah.—See App. C3 introduction; Ac 16:15.
with a spirit, a demon of divination: Lit., “with a spirit of python.” Python was the name of the mythical snake or dragon that guarded the temple and oracle of Delphi, Greece. The Greek word pyʹthon came to refer to a person who could foretell the future and to the spirit that spoke through that one. Although later used to denote a ventriloquist, here in Acts it is used to describe a demon who enabled a young girl to practice the art of prediction.
by fortune-telling: Or “by practicing the art of prediction.” In the Bible, magic-practicing priests, spiritistic diviners, astrologers, and others are listed as claiming the ability to foretell the future. (Le 19:31; De 18:11) In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the only mention of demons predicting the future is in connection with this event in Philippi. The demons oppose God and those who do his will, so it is not surprising that Paul and Silas suffered severe opposition as a result of casting out this demon of divination.—Ac 16:12, 17-24.
marketplace: Or “public square; forum.” The Greek word a·go·raʹ is here used to refer to an open area that served as a center for buying and selling and as a place of public assembly in cities and towns of the ancient Near East and the Greek and Roman world. From this account about what happened in Philippi, it appears that some judicial matters were handled in the marketplace. Excavations of the ruins of Philippi indicate that the Egnatian Way ran through the middle of the city and alongside it was a fair-sized forum, or marketplace.—See study notes on Mt 23:7; Ac 17:17.
the civil magistrates: The plural form of the Greek term stra·te·gosʹ here denotes the highest officials of the Roman colony of Philippi. These had the duties of keeping order, administering finances, trying and judging violators of the law, and ordering punishment.
we are Romans: The city of Philippi was a Roman colony, and its inhabitants were granted many privileges, possibly including a partial or secondary form of Roman citizenship. This may explain why they seem to have had a stronger attachment to Rome than would otherwise have been the case.—See study note on Ac 16:12.
were baptized without delay: The jailer and his household, his family, were Gentiles and were likely unfamiliar with basic Scriptural truths. After having encouraged them to “believe in the Lord Jesus,” Paul and Silas spoke “the word of Jehovah” to them, no doubt extensively. (Ac 16:31, 32) This affected them deeply, for that same night, as Ac 16:34 shows, they “believed in God,” or came to have faith in him. Therefore, it was appropriate that they were baptized without delay. When Paul and Silas left Philippi, Paul’s traveling companion Luke did not leave together with them, as indicated at Ac 16:40. (See study note on Ac 16:10.) Perhaps Luke was able to remain in Philippi for some time to give extra help to the new Christians there.
the constables: The Greek word rha·bdouʹkhos, literally meaning “rod bearer,” referred to an official attendant assigned to escort a Roman magistrate in public and to carry out his instructions. The Roman term was lictor. Some of the duties of the Roman constables were policelike in nature, but the constables were strictly attached to the magistrate, with the responsibility of being constantly at his service. They were not directly subject to the wishes of the people but only to the orders of their magistrate.
we are Romans: That is, Roman citizens. Paul and apparently also Silas were Roman citizens. Roman law stated that a citizen was always entitled to a proper trial and was never to be punished in public uncondemned. Roman citizenship entitled a person to certain rights and privileges wherever he went in the empire. A Roman citizen was subject to Roman law, not to the laws of provincial cities. When accused, he could agree to be tried according to local law; yet, he still retained the right to be heard by a Roman tribunal. In the case of a capital offense, he had the right to appeal to the emperor. The apostle Paul preached extensively throughout the Roman Empire. He made use of his rights as a Roman citizen on three recorded occasions. The first is here in Philippi when he informed the Philippian magistrates that they had infringed on his rights by beating him.—For the other two occasions, see study notes on Ac 22:25; 25:11.