I did not hold back from telling you any of the things that were profitable nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house. But I thoroughly bore witness.” To whom? Only to those who ultimately became elders? No, for Paul adds that he witnessed “both to Jews and to Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus.” So, new persons who needed to know the elementary teachings on repentance and faith were included among those who were taught “publicly and from house to house” right from the start of Paul’s missionary service in Ephesus.—Acts 20:18-21; 18:19; 19:1-7; compare Hebrews 6:1.
17. (a) What is the basis for many Bible translations’ rendering the Greek kat oikous “from house to house”? (b) What would Paul’s ‘thorough witnessing’ indicate that Christian witnessing would include?
17 This phrase “from house to house” is translated from the Greek kat oikous. Though there are other renderings, many well-known versions of the Bible use this expression—“from house to house.”* This is because the Greek preposition kata is in a “distributive” sense. (Compare the similar use of kata at Luke 8:1—“from city to city,” “from village to village”; and at Acts 15:21—“in city after city.”) Thus it may be said that Paul’s ‘thorough witnessing’ was distributed house after house. Bible scholar Dr. A. T. Robertson comments as follows on Acts 20:20:
“By (according to) houses. It is worth noting that this greatest of all preachers preached from house to house and did not make his visits mere social calls.”
As Paul “thoroughly bore witness,” Christians today search for spiritually inclined householders, making return visits to those homes and studying with interested persons. Later, as necessary, shepherding calls are made by faithful overseers.*
18. Why would Paul and his companions not have held back from house-to-house preaching and teaching?
18 There was every reason why Paul and other Christians of his day should ‘not hold back’ in their house-to-house preaching and teaching. Those were critical times. The Jewish system of things was fast approaching its destruction. The Roman emperors were encouraging idolatry. By peoples who were “given to the fear of the deities,” there was a pressing need to seek “the God that made the world and all the things in it,” the One who was then “telling mankind that they should all everywhere repent.”—Acts 17:22-31.
19. (a) Why is the need for house-to-house witnessing, as well as other witnessing activity, most urgent today? (b) In what will our zealous ‘continuing in the faith’ result?
19 The need for ‘thorough witnessing’—from house to house, by informal witnessing, in the marketplaces, by making return visits, by conducting regular Bible studies in the homes—is urgent today.
The New World Translation, Authorized Version, Catholic Douay Version, American Standard Version, New American Standard Bible, English Revised Version, Revised Standard Version of 1952, The Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts (the Peshitta) by George M. Lamsa, A New Translation of the Bible (Moffatt), the Spanish Versión Moderna, the New Testament in an Improved Version (Newcomb), The New Testament (Spencer), The Englishman’s Greek New Testament (interlinear), the Catholic Confraternity translation of The New Testament, The Westminster Version of the Sacred Scriptures, The Riverside New Testament (Ballantine), New International Version, The New New Testament (interlinear).
For a more detailed discussion of the subject, please see the article “From House to House” in The Watchtower, August 15, 1961, p. 503.