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Acts 13:13-41: Paul's Sermon in Pisidian Antioch— The Realization of Long Awaited Davidic Hope

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This paper is given to the exegesis and exposition of Paul's Pisidian Antioch sermon as given by Luke in Acts 13:13-41. First we will look at a broad outline for the passage. Then we will suggest the proper understanding of the structure of the sermon proper. Finally, an exegesis and exposition of the passage will be offered, using the NET Bible.

An Outline of the Passage

    I. The Setting (13:13-15)

    II. The Sermon (13:16-39)

      A. God’s Faithfulness to Israel (16-25)

      B. The Death/Resurrection in History (26-31)

      C. The Resurrection as Foundational to OT Davidic Fulfillment: The Argument from Scripture (32-39)

    III. The Warning (13:40-43)

The Structure of the Sermon

While there are differing views on the structure of the sermon proper, the most common approach is to see three divisions: 1) 16-25; 2) 26-37; 3) 38-41.1 This outline gives proper attention to the obvious structural markers in vv. 16, 26, and 38 where three times Paul inserts the term “men” along with other modifiers.2 The sermon flows well under this understanding and it is thus adopted here.

An Exegesis/Exposition of the Passage

I. The Setting (13-15)

v.13 Then Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos3 and came to Perga4 in Pamphilia, but John left them and returned to Jerusalem.

After having completed the work in Paphos the team of missionaries traveled northward to the mainland and landed at Perga in the province of Pamphilia. Luke says, “Paul and his companions”5 from which we may infer that Paul is now considered to be the leader of the group which consisted of Barnabas and John Mark (at this point anyway), and perhaps others who were making their way to Asia Minor.6 Moving Paul to the front of the list is Luke’s “literary way” of preparing the reader for the central role Paul will play in the second half of the book of Acts and the Gentile mission.

As to why John Mark left the group and returned to Jerusalem we are not told, but it did lead to a severe and unfortunate break between Paul and Barnabas some time later (Acts 15:37-39). He may have grown timid at the thought of crossing over the Taurus mountains, or nervous about safety from bandits (cf. 2 Cor 11:26), or been a little disgruntled at Paul taking over lead of the team. The fact that it appears that he went directly to Jerusalem without reporting the progress of the team to the Antiochen church may give the impression that John Mark was uncomfortable with the Gentile mission and preaching the gospel to non-Jews.7 For this reason Paul was unwilling to take him on the second missionary journey. In any case, whatever the cause for his departure, and we cannot know for certain, it seems that Paul and he reconciled some twenty years later (2 Timothy 4:11).

vv. 14-15 Moving on from8 Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the law and the prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent them a message, saying, “Brothers,9 if you have any message of exhortation for the people, speak it.”

There is no record that the team did any preaching in Perga,10 but instead headed north to Pisidian Antioch some eighty to one hundred miles up the river valleys. Pisidian Antioch11 was a city of mixed ethnicity, including Jew, Phrygian, Greek, and Roman.12 It was “a Roman colony, which made it the military and administrative centre of the country.”13

After arriving in the city, and when the Sabbath had come, Paul and company went into the synagogue and took their seat.14 Diaspora synagogue worship (i.e., synagogue worship outside Palestine) seems to have involved the following elements: 1) the recitation of the Shema; 2) prayers (the Tefillah); 3) the priestly blessing; 4) reading from the Torah; 5) reading from the prophets;15 6) a sermon (i.e., a homily);16 7) concluding benediction.17

Luke mentions that there was a synagogue ruler18 present in the synagogue (cf. Mark 5:22; Luke 8:41; Acts 18:8, 17). A person in such a position was responsible for the general upkeep of the synagogue, but especially concerned himself with the direction of the services; he appointed people for the prayers and the reading of Scripture as well as the sermon. It was also a title that was given as an honor to women and children.19 On this occasion, the ruler asked Paul, either according to prior consent, or because he was dressed as a Pharisee, to give the sermon portion of the service. So, much as we see Jesus doing in Luke 4:16-21 Paul does here in Pisidian Antioch; he gives what the synagogue ruler referred to as a “message of exhortation.”20 The expression “message of exhortation” does not refer, as Pillai21 suggests, to a fixed, liturgical (creed), block of material passed from rabbi to student, but is instead a reference simply to a message designed to instruct, encourage and exhort people to trust and obey God. It could be written (cf. Hebrews 13:22) or spoken, as the case may be.22

II. The Sermon (16-41)

    A. God’s Faithfulness to Israel (16-25)

v. 16 So Paul stood up,23 gestured with his hand and said, “Israelite men, and you Gentiles who fear God,24 listen:

Having received permission to commence with his “word of exhortation,” the apostle Paul stood up. While it was common in Palestine for the one who taught in the synagogue to sit down (cf. Luke 420), in Asia Minor, where there was undoubtedly a greater Greek influence, Paul stood up to speak.25 Paul refers to his audience, which is composed of Jews and non-Jewish worshipers, as Israelite men, or men of Israel, and Gentiles who fear God. As Israelite men, they will be called upon to remember their heritage and the promises that were made to them by their God. The question remains as to whether they will rebel (cf. v. 27) or accept Paul’s message of fulfillment of the promises in Christ. The mention of the Gentiles who fear God undoubtedly expresses the Pauline sentiment regarding the universality of the message—a fact many Jews could not stomach.

The stage is now set for Paul to proclaim the good news that God has fulfilled the promises he made to David and that those in Pisidian Antioch can benefit in the blessing. We may be sure that the sermon lasted much longer than this, but Luke has distilled and presented the essential argument and teaching of the apostle.26 The sermon bears much in common with Peter’s speech in Acts 2 and Stephen’s in Acts 7 (e.g., a focus on God’s sovereignty and power), and is the longest of Paul’s sermons Luke records for us. One of the primary reasons for the similarities between Peter and Paul in Acts is to underlie the theme of unity (among leaders and people in the church) in Acts and to demonstrate that the Gentiles had received the same promises and blessings as the Jews and were to be regarded as equal in the church. The first part of the sermon (16-25) begins with a selective review of Israel’s history which is decidedly a statement of God’s unchanging faithfulness. Paul begins with the election of the nation and eventually gets to God’s choice of David from whom he says God raised up a Savior, that is, Jesus.

vv. 17-20 The God of this people Israel27 chose our ancestors28 and made the people great29 during their stay as foreigners30 in the country31 of Egypt, and with uplifted arm32 he led them out of it. For a period of about forty years he put up with33 them in the desert.34 After he had destroyed35 seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave his people their land as an inheritance.36 13:20 All this took37 about four hundred fifty years. After this he gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet.

The mention of “this people Israel” stresses the fact that out of all the nations on earth, God had worked uniquely with them. First, he chose them out of all the nations when he redeemed their beloved ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Paul’s reference to “our ancestors” expresses his solidarity with the Jewish people in general and links him closely with the Jewish contingency in the synagogue. He too, just like they, has been awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promises. Second, God made the people great while they were in Egypt. Never once did he leave them in their years of need and hopelessness (cf. Exodus 1:12) and indeed exalted Joseph in that foreign land. Third, he led them out of bondage in Egypt and he did so with uplifted arm and a prolonged demonstration of his power (cf. Exodus 6-15). Fourth, he also endured their failings in the desert and brought them to the promised land. Fifth, it was he who demonstrated his power by driving out seven nations from the land so that his people could come to rest and inherit the promise given to Abraham and the nation (Deut 7:1). Once they were in the land, he raised up judges to help them in their waywardness until the time of the Samuel the prophet. Thus Israel’s history, though marked by failure, is nonetheless ultimately the story of a God who loved his people so much that he committed himself to them to fulfill his purpose for them. Paul records these events in the introduction to his sermon because they are watershed illustrations of YHWH’s covenant-keeping faithfulness—the point he will make about the Davidic covenant and Christ.

vv. 21-25 Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man from the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled38 forty years. 13:22 After removing him, God raised up David their king. He testified about him: ‘I have found David39 the son of Jesse to be a man after my heart,40 who will accomplish everything I want him to do.’41 13:23 From the descendants42 of this man43 God brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, just as he promised. 13:24 Before44 his coming John45 had proclaimed a baptism for repentance46 to all the people of Israel. 13:25 But while John was completing his mission47 he said repeatedly,48 ‘What do you think I am? I am not he. But look, one is coming after me. I am not worthy to untie the sandals on his feet!’49

It has been suggested that the reason Paul incorporates Saul in his review of Israel’s history (the only mention of him in the entire NT) is because Paul was his namesake and both were of the tribe of Benjamin–a brief excursus, so to speak, and then back to the main issue at hand.50 But as Dunn points, such an hypothesis is nothing more than “a pleasant speculation.”51 More probable is the idea that Saul represents another point in the history of Israel’s failure where God showed them mercy by removing52 him and raising up a new and faithful king. There is no place in the OT where it explicitly says how long king Saul ruled, but it was probably for about 40 years, according to the information we have from Josephus (Ant 6.378; but cf. also 10.143).

After reviewing several points in the redemptive history of Israel, Paul now culminates his lesson with the mention of David, and God’s faithfulness to the nation in raising him up. The reference to “raising up” David is probably a play on words in that David’s greater son was also “raised up”: while David was raised up onto the scene of world history, Christ, who also came to take his part in history, did so by being raised from the dead (cf. v. 30 where the same verb [i.e., egeivrw] is used).

God found David to be a man after his own heart. Paul cites Psalm 89:20 (“I have found”) and follows it with another citation from 1 Samuel 13:14 (“a man after my own heart”), and still another, (“who will do everything I want him to do”) which probably comes from either Isaiah 44:28 (unlikely) or the Targum to 1 Samuel 13:14.53 It is important to realize, as well, that the key passage which underlies Paul’s thinking regarding David (and his use of Ps 89, 1 Sam 13:14 and Isaiah 44) is 2 Samuel 7:12-16. It is in this passage that God refers to the “son” of David (v. 14). On the basis of Jewish rabbinic exegetical method and the mention of “son” in 2 Samuel 7:14 and Psalm 2:7, Paul brings these texts together and applies them to Christ: Christ is the ultimate “son” that 2 Samuel is referring to (v. 33).54 That those in Qumran understood 2 Samuel in a messianic fashion is found in a text from their community, namely, 4QFlorilegium, which itself cites 2 Sam 7 and Ps 2:

[And] Yahweh tells you that he will build a house for you, and I shall set up your seed after you, and I shall establish his royal throne [foreve]r. I shall be to him as a father, and he will be to me as a son. He is the ‘Shoot of David’ who will arise with the interpreter of the Law, who [. . .] in Zi[on in the l]ast days; as it is written, ‘And I shall raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen.’ That is, the tabernacle of David that is fal][len is he] who will arise to save Israel . . .[Why do] the nations [rag]e and peoples imag[ine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set] themselves, [and the ru]lers take counsel together against Yahweh and against [his anointed. . . .

Thus these passages which speak about David are messianic and have their ultimate fulfillment, as far as Paul is concerned, in Christ; he is the Savior God brought to Israel just as He promised.55 Once again God has proven trustworthy in Israel’s history.

It is likely that since individuals further to the west in Ephesus knew of John the Baptist’s ministry (though this was some time later; see Acts 19:1ff), that there were also some there in Antioch who did. In any case it is difficult to decide whether these comments about John belong to what precedes (i.e., vv. 16-23) or what follows (vv.26-37). Does John belong to the period of promise or the age of fulfillment? This is difficult to determine as Luke seems to link him with both at different points in his writings (cf. Luke 3:1-6 and Acts 1:22). He is nonetheless as Bock affirms, a “bridge figure”56 and seems to be mentioned here in Antioch not simply because it was apostolic practice to associate him with the coming of Jesus, but in particular because the theme of fulfillment is so strong here and he represents the Elijah promised before Messiah comes. The bottom line is, he was a humble forerunner and a model of an Israelite who accepted God’s Savior for the nation. The reference to Jesus as Savior may well be to avoid the political overtones created by referring to him as Messiah.57

    B. The Resurrection in History (26-31)

13:26 Brothers,58 descendants59 of Abraham’s family60 and those Gentiles among you who fear God, the message61 of this salvation has been sent to us.

The reference to the Jews in the synagogues as “brothers” is Paul’s way of endearing himself to his audience and preparing their hearts to hear about the events in Jerusalem and the scriptural proof for Jesus as the ‘fulfiller’ of OT hope. They are descendants of Abraham (and by inference, as one of their brothers, so is Paul) and heirs of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 12:1-3; 15; 17), the seed aspect of which, as we said earlier, was developed further in the Davidic covenant of 2 Samuel 7:6-16. Paul makes deliberate mention of the Gentiles as those included in the “us;” the pronoun stands first in the Greek clause as a matter of emphasis. Paul says that it is to us and not some other generation of Israelites or Gentiles (not even the patriarchs who were given the promises), that God has sent his message of this salvation.

The reference to “this salvation” is Paul’s way of referring to God’s work in Christ. Although the term “salvation” (swthriva) in Acts is used to refer to physical deliverance (7:25; 27:34), the context here, especially verse 38, indicates that a spiritual concept is in mind.

13:27 For the people who live in Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize62 him,63 and they fulfilled the sayings64 of the prophets that are read every Sabbath by condemning65 him.66

The word “for” beginning v. 27 can be a little confusing at first glance. Exactly what Paul’s argument is, is difficult to tell, but it seems that what he is saying is that vv. 27-31 are explaining how this salvation was brought about in history so that it could some day go out to Antioch. In this view vv. 27-31 are somewhat parenthetical/explanatory in the flow of the argument which is then resumed with vv. 32ff. The passage is not saying that, since the Jews in Jerusalem rejected Jesus, the message of ‘this salvation’ could then be sent out to places outside Palestine including Antioch; the message of salvation itself is founded upon what took place in Jerusalem. (Notice that the text says that the rulers and the people fulfilled the scripture.) That this is the case is evidenced also by the fact that many in Jerusalem came to faith (see Acts 2 and 3).

The very scriptures which pointed to Jesus and his sufferings (cf. Luke 24:44-48), and which the rulers had read in their synagogues each week, were fulfilled in their rejection of Jesus: irony of ironies! Luke makes essentially the same point in Acts 2:23 when he says that Jesus was handed over by the predetermined plan of God and godless men put him to death. But, as is the pattern in Acts, God vindicated his servant by resurrecting him from the dead (v. 30, 2:24, 32; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30f; 10:40).67

13:28-31 Though they found68 no basis69 for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 13:29 When they had accomplished everything that was written70 about him, they took him down from the cross71 and placed him in a tomb. 13:30 But God raised him from the dead, 13:31 and for many days he appeared to those who had accompanied72 him from Galilee to Jerusalem. These are now his witnesses to the people.

Paul gives his hearers what amounts to a four part confessional statement concerning what happened to Jesus (cf. 1 Cor 15:3-4): 1) he was executed on a cross; 2) taken down and buried in a tomb; 3) raised from the dead (no mention of “on the third day”), and; 4) appeared to his disciples, who have since become his witnesses,73 over a period of many days.74

The confessional itself is set in the context of the innocence of Jesus which is a theme repeated several times in Luke 23:1-35. But while it is clear that Luke is concerned with presenting Jesus as innocent, there is no little discussion among scholars as to what theological value Luke places on the death of Christ itself. It seems that here in Pisidian Antioch Paul links the forgiveness of sins (v. 38, 39) more to the fulfillment of OT promises and Jesus’ resurrection than to the death of Christ. So to some authors, it appears that Luke has no substitutionary theology of the cross, that is, they believe that Luke never once connects the death of Christ with the forgiveness of sins, as Paul does (e.g., Eph 1:7). Granted it is true that Luke does not seem to have the same degree of emphasis on this truth as does Paul, but that is not to say that he never expresses the substitutionary death of Christ. He does so in Luke 22:19b-20 and in Acts 20:28.75

The next phase in Paul’s argument is to give scriptural support for the resurrection and its implications for his hearers. He lists several OT texts which we will look at individually and which have stirred up no little discussion among interpreters. They include: 1) Psalm 2:7 in v. 33; 2) Isaiah 55:3 in v. 34; 3) Psalm 16:10 in v. 35.

    C. The Resurrection as Foundational to OT Davidic Fulfillment: The Argument from Scripture (32-39)

13:32-33 And we76 proclaim to you the good news about the promise to our ancestors, 13:33 that this promise77 God has fulfilled to us, their children, by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my Son; today I have fathered you.’78

The good news, Paul says to his audience, is that the promise God made to their ancestors he has fulfilled for them (i.e., Paul’s audience) by raising Jesus from the dead. The promise in this case is that made to David in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 and referred to earlier in Acts 13:23.79 God promised David that seed from his own body would succeed him (2 Sam 7:12) and that his kingdom would be established forever. Psalm 2 refers to the coronation of Yahweh’s Davidic king in Israel, was interpreted messianically in first century Judaism (see Ps of Sol 17-18), and is used by Paul to show the faithfulness of God in raising up (from the dead) Jesus as the one who could ultimately fulfill the promise made to David. The point of the quotation of Psalm 2, then, is that God has enthroned Christ as Davidic King in faithfulness to his promises to the people.

13:34 But regarding the fact that he has raised Jesus from the dead, never again to be80 in a state of decay, God has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and trustworthy promises made to David.’81

The use of Is 55:3 in Paul’s argument is difficult to discern.82 Conzelmann says that “Isaiah 55:3 is cited in such a fragmentary manner that the quotation is unintelligible.”83 He asks the question of whether Luke found the text already joined to Psalm 16:10 with the implication that he left it as it was. Williams refers to the citation as an “obscure phrase.”84 (There is simply not space enough here to deal with the differences between the MT and the LXX and the various interpretations of “holy and sure.”) Certain disparages to the side, however, the point of the quotation seems to be to show that since YHWH would give the people (“I will give you”; you is plural in the Greek text) the holy and sure blessings promised to David he must have a living king to do it. Since Jesus, the one who was killed in Jerusalem, is the one to dispense those blessings (as the previous quote from Ps 2 indicates that he is now in the role to perform), he must, therefore, have been resurrected from the dead. Thus Is 55:3 is used to substantiate the resurrection only insofar as that contributes to the argument of the bestowal of Davidic blessing on the people. God promised David and indirectly the nation that they would have a Davidic king on the throne and that the Davidic kingdom would be established forever (cf. Luke 1:31-33). Here we have Jesus, the Greater David, ruling over his people and dispensing salvific benefits such as forgiveness and justification. We must not conclude, however, that the present or inaugural form of the kingdom is the complete realization of what the OT envisioned. Several passages in Luke as well as Acts 1:6 and 3:19-22 envision a time when Messiah will establish his rule on the earth (cf. Rev 20:4-6) in consummation of what was promised.

Since all of the foregoing depends on Jesus’ resurrection, Paul once again refers to Scripture, namely, Psalm 16:10, to substantiate it.

13:35-37 Therefore he also says in another psalm,85You will not permit your Holy One86 to experience87 decay.’88 13:36 For David, after he had served89 God’s purpose in his own generation, died,90 was buried with his ancestors,91 and experienced decay; 13:37 but the one whom God raised up did not experience decay.

Paul joins the two quotations of Is 55:3 and Psalm 16:10 through the use of two catchwords: 1) give; 2) holy. Without doing violence to the texts in their original context, he brings the two passages together. We have already discussed Isaiah 55:3 above. The reason Paul cites Psalm 16:10 is to once again strengthen the Scriptural support for the resurrection and therefore Jesus as the fulfiller of Davidic promise. Psalm 16:10 is not cited as a complete interpretation of Isaiah 55:3 for this misses the meaning of the “holy” and “sure” blessings. It is cited, rather, to buttress the foundation on which the “holy and sure blessings” rest, namely, the resurrection.

Now there may have been some Jewish people in Paul’s audience who felt that those promises were made only to David or were in some way not applicable. So Paul says that David could not have fulfilled those promises since he died and the texts imply that Yahweh’s hasid (I.e., “holy one”) would not die; Jesus is the only one who ultimately fulfills the text.

    D. Excursus on Psalm 16 in Acts 2

The use of Psalm 16 here is similar to Peter’s use of the same text in Acts 2:25-31. It should be remembered at the outset that the meaning of Psalm 16:8-11 in its OT context includes preservation from death, not deliverance out of death. A summary of Psalm 16:8-11 in common vernacular might run like this: "Thank you Lord that I, as your holy one, am going to be O.K. in this life-threatening situation and will indeed live through it to go on enjoying fellowship with you." Let us now look at the Psalm as Peter uses it.

Peter has just argued in 2:24 that death could not hold Jesus in its grip. In 2:25 he quotes Psalm 16:8-11 to give an explanation (cf. the “for” [gavr]) as to why this is true. The introduction of the quotation is interesting and reflects a pesher approach to the use of the psalm. This is evident in the phrase “about him” (eij" aujtovn). Peter makes it very specific that the psalm is talking about Jesus of Nazareth; the antecedent to “him” (aujtovn).92 Jesus is therefore, the ultimate hasid who always (dymt) put the Lord before him without fail and in a perfect way.93 He never sought other gods (Ps. 16:4) and always and only worshipped YHWH.

In the psalm, David is confident he will not go to Sheol. In Acts, Peter uses the psalm to apply to Jesus who had died and experienced the grave (cf. ejgkataleivyei" . . . eij" "you will not leave in"). David is preserved from physical death (Psalm 16 in the OT), Jesus is delivered out of death (Psalm 16 in Acts 2). It is not the same thing to be preserved from death as it is to be delivered out of death, but, there is, however, a conceptually parallel relationship between the two. Both meanings involve death and YHWH's desire that his hasid not be consumed by death and thus have no opportunity for fellowship with Him. Therefore, if YHWH delivered David from death, the implication is that he did not want him die. If this is true, certainly then, afortiori, he would save his ultimate hasid out of death. This change in meaning does not involve contradiction such that Peter made the OT text say something it did not imply, but is instead a development of the concept of deliverance in regards to the enemy of death. It is a fuller sense provided for by the progress of revelation (i.e., Christ's death and resurrection) and worked out along a grammatical-historical plane, involving the use of Jewish hermeneutical methods.94

13:38-39 Therefore let it be known to you, brothers, that through this one95 forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 13:39 and by this one96 everyone who believes is justified97 from everything from which the law of Moses could not justify98 you.99

Paul moves forcefully100 to the application of his sermon and refers to all those listening as “brothers”—without explicit reference to the Gentiles. This may be his way of appealing to both the Jews and the Gentiles as one group, at least as far as their need for forgiveness and justification is concerned. He strongly emphasizes that this forgiveness and justification comes “through him,” that is, Jesus Christ, and his death and resurrection (with special emphasis in the sermon on his resurrection). He also claims that it is for everyone who believes, with the implication that it’s not for the Jew only.

There is a problem with the interpretation of the phrase “is justified101 from everything from which the law of Moses could not justify102 you.103 Some commentators argue that the meaning is that the Mosaic Law could justify Jews from certain things which the death/resurrection could then complete. The problem this creates with Pauline theology is obvious (e.g., Romans 3:21-31). But even Luke could not envision the Law and works of the Law contributing anything to one’s justification, that is, to their right standing with God. It is better to take the phrase to be absolute meaning that the Law of Moses was unable to justify a person in any regard, but that through Christ a person can be completely justified; through believing in Christ a person may receive a perfect standing with God—declared legally righteous.

III. The Warning (40-41)

13:40-41 Watch out,104 then, that what is spoken about by105 the prophets does not happen to you:

13:41 Look, you scoffers; be amazed and perish!106
For I am doing a work in your days,
A work you would never believe, even if someone tells you.’”107

Having reached the end of his sermon, Paul warns his readers about rejecting God’s work in Christ (cf. 2:40; 3:23; 17:31). He appeals to Habakkuk 1:5, the general principal of which typifies many OT prophetic warnings;108 Israel, and therefore people in general (including Paul’s hearers), tend to be ignorant of God’s work because it is sometimes not what one would anticipate and allow for in one’s theology. The prophet Habakkuk was warning Israel not to be surprised that God was about to raise up and use Babylon to discipline his own people.(1:6, 12). In the same way, Paul’s listeners should not be surprised that God had fulfilled his promises to them by raising Jesus from the dead and they must be careful not to reject God’s work in Christ, however contrary to their expectations.109

The result seems to be somewhat favorable as verses 42 and 43 indicate. Both Jews and Gentiles wanted to speak further about these matters and Paul and Barnabas encouraged them to continue in the grace of God. But as verses 44-52 indicate, on the next Sabbath, there arose the typical division between the Jews and Gentiles where some Jews reacted violently against Paul and his message.


In Acts 13:16-43 Luke records for us Paul and Barnabas’ ministry in Pisidian Antioch. We said that the structure of the passage was as follows: 1) the setting [13-15]; 2) the sermon [16-39]; and 3) the warning [40-43]. The sermon itself can be outlined according to the three major structural markers found at vv. 16, 26, and 38. The point of the sermon is not to prove the resurrection from Scripture, but to prove that Jesus has fulfilled OT Davidic promises and as such offers forgiveness and justification to those who believe. The apologetic for the resurrection along the way, such as the citing of Psalm 16:10 in v. 35 is primarily to support this contention.

1 For a critique of two other views see David DeSilva, “Paul’s Sermon in Pisidian Antioch,” BibSac 151 (1994): 34-35.

2 Cf. Charles H. Talbert, Reading Acts: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Book of Acts (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1997), 130-31.

3 Paphos was a city on the southwestern coast of the island of Cyprus. See Acts 13:6.

4 Perga was a city in Pamphilia near the southern coast of Asia Minor. The journey from Paphos to Perga is about 175 mi (105 km). Perga, itself, lay about 12 miles inland from the seaport of Attalia

5 The Greek text reads oiJ periV Paulon. For Luke’s use of oiJ periV see also Luke 22:49. Conzelmann, Acts, 103, states that the phrase oiJ periV can be used if there be only one companion present, or if there be no companion present. He cites Xenophon Eph 2.2.1-2. Cf. also BAGD, s.v. peri 2ad.

6 See Hans Conzelmann, Acts of the Apostles, Hermeneia, trans. James Limburg, A. Thomas Kraabel, and Donald H. Juel, ed. Eldon Jay Epp with Christopher R. Matthews (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987), 103.

7 For citations of the various views, though each of the following authors agree that we cannot know for certain, see David John Williams, Acts, New International Biblical Commentary, ed. W. Ward Gasque (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1990), 230, who says, “This was for the most part a low, marshy, fever-ridden region, though at some points the Taurus Mountains, which made travel to the north so difficult, reach to the sea;” E. M. Blaiklock, The Acts of the Apostles, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, ed. R. V. G. Tasker (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), 104; Conzelmann, Acts, 103; John B. Polhill, Acts, The New American Commentary, vol. 26, ed. David S. Dockery (Nashville, TN: Broadman, 1992), 296-97.

8 Or “Passing by.”

9 The Greek text reads, “Men brothers,” but this is both awkward and unnecessary in English.

10 Whether the team moved on because Paul contracted malaria or some other disease—even if the area is problematic for this disease—is simply speculation; we have no positive evidence. Given the context of the beginning of the Gentile mission it is perhaps better to understand the silence about Perga as the hesitancy of the team to go directly to the Gentiles apart from a synagogue. Richard N. Longenecker, “Acts,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 9, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 421, says, “But discussion among the missioners after Paphos and during their stay at Perga may very well have focused on the implications of Sergius Paulus's conversion for their ministry. And it can plausibly be argued that (1) the lack of preaching in Perga at this time was due primarily to uncertainty within the missionary party itself about the validity of a direct approach to and full acceptance of Gentiles….”

11 On Antioch Pisidia and its distinction from Antioch of Syria see Pliny, Natural History, 5. 27 and Strabo 12, 577.

12 See William J. Larkin, Jr. Acts, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, ed. Grant R. Osborne (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 197.

13 W. M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1949), 104.

14 They may have sat in seats specially reserved for “distinguished strangers and visitors.” See Giuseppe Ricciotti, The Acts of the Apostles, trans. Laurence E. Byrne (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Company, 1958), 206. It was Paul’s custom to go into the synagogue in order to teach and proclaim the good news about Christ (see 13:5; 14:1; 17:1, 2, 10, 17; 18:4, 19, 26; 19:8).

15 There have been many speculations as to what the reading from the Law and the prophets might have been on this occasion. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, 100, suggests Deuteronomy 1 and Isaiah 1 because of the word links with Paul’s sermon: “Deut I naturally suggests the historical retrospect with which Paul begins; and the promise of the remission of sins rises naturally out of Isaiah I:18.” There have been other suggestions as well, but they remain idle conjecture at best.

16 See Philo Special Laws, 2.62, which says, “but some of those who are very learned explain to them what is of great importance and use, lessons by which the whole of their lives may be improved.”

17 For the various elements thought to be part of a Diaspora synagogue service see, Ernst Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1971), 407-08; C.S.C. Williams, A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, Harper’s New Testament Commentaries (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1957), 161; F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles: The Greek Text with Introduction and Commentary (London: The Tyndale Press, 1951), 260; Talbert, Reading Acts, 129.

18 The plural use of the term “synagogue ruler” (ajrcisunavgwgoi) does not necessarily indicate that there was more than one, though for this to be the case was not uncommon (see Williams, Acts, 232). The plural can be explained by the fact that the title was sometimes given as an honor and was still used by those who were former synagogue officials (see Polhill, Acts, 297). Ludemann is certainly without warrant when he supposes Luke to have made an error by referring to ajrcisunavgwgoi in the plural. Cf. Gerd Lüdemann, Early Christianity according to the Traditions in Acts (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987), 153. See also BAGD 113 s. v. ajrcisunavgwgo" and LN 53.93: “one who is the head of and who directs the affairs of a synagogue - `president of a synagogue, leader of a synagogue.”

19 See Bruce, Acts, 261.

20 The Greek text is lovgo" paraklhvsew".

21 Cf. C. A. Joachim Pillai, Early Missionary Preaching: A Study of Luke’s Report in Acts, Hicksville, NY: Exposition Press, 1979), 55, who says: “It was the “word of consolation,” the logos paraklsos, transmitted from priest to pupil, and from father to son.”

22 See DeSilva, “Paul’s Sermon,” 33.

23 This participle, ajnastav", and the following one, kataseivsa", are both translated as circumstantial participles of attendant circumstance.

24 Grk “and those who fear God,” but this is practically a technical term for the category called God-fearers, Gentiles who worshiped the God of Israel and in many cases kept the Mosaic law, but did not take the final step of circumcision necessary to become a Jewish proselyte. See further K. G. Kuhn, TDNT 6.732-34, 43-44. See also Josephus, Against Apion, 2.40.

25 See Conzelmann, Acts, 103, who says: “according to Luke, Paul opens his speech with the appropriate rhetorical gesture.”

26 See Longenecker, “Acts,” 1981, 424, who says, “Three missionary sermons of Paul are presented in Acts: the first here in 13:16-41 before the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia, the second in 14:15-17 to Lystrans assembled outside the city gates, and the third in 17:22-31 before the Council of Ares at Athens. Each sermon as we have it is only a precis of what was said, for the longest in its present form would take no more than three minutes to deliver and the shortest can be read in thirty seconds or less. But there is enough in each account to suggest that whereas Paul preached the same gospel wherever he went, he altered the form of his message according to the circumstances he encountered.”

27 Or “people of Israel.”

28 Or “forefathers”; Grk “fathers.”

29 That is, in both numbers and in power. The implication of greatness in both numbers and in power is found in BAGD 851 s.v. uJyovw 2.

30 Or “as resident aliens.”

31 Or “land.”

32 Here “uplifted arm” is a metaphor for God’s power by which he delivered the Israelites from Egypt. See Exod 6:1, 6; 32:11; Deut 3:24; 4:34; Ps 136:11-12.

33 For this verb, see BAGD 827 s.v. tropoforevw (cf. also Deut 1:31; Exod 16:35; Num 14:34).

34 Or “wilderness.”

35 The participle kaqelwvn is translated as a temporal circumstantial participle.

36 In Greek the text reads “he gave their land as an inheritance.” The words “his people” are supplied to complete an ellipsis specifying the recipients of the land.

37 The words “all this took” are not in the Greek text, but are supplied to make a complete statement in English. There is debate over where this period of 450 years fits and what it includes: (1) it could include the years in Egypt, the conquest of Canaan, and the distribution of the land; (2) some connect it with the following period of the judges. This latter approach seems to conflict with 1 Kgs 6:1; see also Josephus, Antiquities 8.61.

38 The words “who ruled” are not in the Greek text, but are implied. See Josephus, Antiquities 6.14.9.

39 A quotation from Ps 89:20.

40 A quotation from 1 Sam 13:14.

41 Or “who will perform all my will”; or “who will carry out all my wishes.”

42 Or “From the offspring”; Grk “From the seed.”

From the descendants [Grk “seed”]. On the importance of the seed promise involving Abraham, see Gal 3:6-29.

43 The phrase “this man” is in emphatic position in the Greek text.

44 Grk “John having already proclaimed before his coming a baptism…,” a genitive absolute construction which is awkward in English. A new sentence was begun in the translation at this point.

45 That is, John the Baptist.

46 Grk “a baptism of repentance”; the genitive has been translated as a genitive of purpose.

47 Or “task.”

48 The verb e[legen is translated as an iterative imperfect, since John undoubtedly said this or something similar on numerous occasions.

49 Literally a relative clause, “of whom I am not worthy to untie the sandals of his feet.” Because of the awkwardness of this construction in English, a new sentence was begun here.

50 See Williams, Acts, 233.

51 Dunn, Acts, 179.

52 The Greek term metasthvsa" (“removed”) could refer to Saul’s deposition or to his death. See Bruce, Acts, 265. See also Barnes, Acts, 206, who thinks that it refers to his deposition since David was anointed king before Saul died and immediately after Saul’s failure in 1 Samuel 15:8-23; 16:12-13. It may be that the whole idea of Saul’s removal from the office of king and his gruesome death is what Paul has in mind.

53 See Williams, Acts, 233; Larkin, Acts, 199, n13:22 who claims that it is not an allusion to Isaiah 44:28.

54 For a fuller discussion of what Paul is doing here see J. W. Doeve, Jewish Hermeneutics in the Synoptic Gospels and Acts (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1954), 172-73, who says: “Though this designation of David as the man after God’s own heart, who was to carry out God’s commands, immediately brings to mind 1 Samuel xiii.14, that is not really the text which is important here in the argument of the speaker. For that text is not mentioned, but only indicated by the word ejpaggeliva (verse 23). It is 2 Samuel vii 6-16. This text speaks of the coming up out of Egypt, of the Judges, of Saul (2 Sam vii 6, 11 and 15 respectively), and here too we find the promise of the Seed of David, who shall have a kingdom for ever, and of this king it is said that Yahweh will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to Yahweh (2 Sam. vii 12b-14a). It is clear that this passage forms the background of the speaker’s entire argument so far. After recalling the preaching of John the Baptist the speaker then continues with the fate of Jesus (verse 26-30). What determined the course of thoughts here, becomes evident from verse 32 [sic]. For there he quotes from Ps. ii 7 ;ytdly mwyh yna hta ynb. That the transition from 2 Sam vii to Ps. ii was easy for the speaker is at once apparent, if one reflects that 2 Sam. vii 14a says that the king from the seed of David shall be the “Son of Yahweh,” while Ps ii verse 7 says: “Thou art my son”. This connects the two passages.”

55 There are some who feel that the background here is broader than just Davidic, but that through the use of epaggelivan in v. 32 the whole of the OT is envisioned. See Matthaus Franz-Josef Buss, Die Missionpredigt des Apostels Paulus im Pisidichen Antiochen: Analyse von Apg 13, 16-41 im Hinblick auf die literarische und thematische Einheit der Paulusrede, Forschung zur Bibel (Stuttgart: Verlag Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1980), 49. Connections in Paul’s sermon with Abraham and the patriarchs would tend to support such a thesis, but both the focus on David in the sermon and the jump from him to Christ seem to mitigate against it.

56 See Darrell L. Bock, “A Theology of Luke-Acts,” in A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, ed. Darrell L. Bock and Roy B. Zuck (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 93.

57 See Everett F. Harrison, Interpreting Acts: The Expanding Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 223. Larkin, Acts, 199.

58 Grk “Men brothers,” but this is both awkward and unnecessary in English.

59 Grk “sons”

60 Or “race.”

61 Grk “word.”

62 BAGD 11 s.v. ajgnoevw 2 gives “not to know w. acc. of the pers.” as the meaning here, but “recognize” is a better translation in this context because recognition of the true identity of the one they condemned is the issue. See Acts 2:22-24; 4:26-28.

63 Grk “this one.”

64 Usually fwnhv means “voice,” but BAGD 871 s.v. fwnhv 2.c has “Also of sayings in scripture…Ac 13:27.”

They fulfilled the sayings. The people in Jerusalem and the Jewish rulers should have known better, because they had the story read to them weekly in the synagogue!

65 The participle krivnante" is translated as a circumstantial participle of means.

66 The word “him” is not in the Greek text but is implied. Direct objects were often omitted in Greek when clear from the context, but must be supplied for the modern English reader.

67 See Krodel, Acts, 235.

68 The participle euJrovnte" is translated as a concessive circumstantial participle.

69 No basis. Luke insists on Jesus’ innocence again and again in Luke 23:1-25.

70 That is, in Old Testament scripture.

71 Grk “tree,” but frequently figurative for a cross. The allusion is to Deut 21:23. See Acts 5:30; 10:39.

72 Those who had accompanied him refers to the disciples, who knew Jesus in ministry. Luke is aware of resurrection appearances in Galilee though he did not relate any of them in Luke 24.

73 The term “witness” (noun) occurs 13 times in the book of Acts 1:8, 22; 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 6:13; 7:58; 10:39, 41; 13:31; 22:15, 20; 26:16. Of those, 10 are in connection with the resurrection and/or exaltation of Jesus. The verb occurs 11 times and 2 or 3 occurrences are concerned with the resurrection of Christ.

74 See Longenecker, “Acts,” 425, 26.

75 For a complete discussion of these two texts, including their textual problems, see my The Atonement in Lucan Theology in Recent Discussion at

76 The use of the pronoun hJmei" (“we”) in the Greek text stresses the fact that Paul and his companions are in concert with those from Jerusalem who had seen the risen Lord (cf. 31).

77 The Greek demonstrative pronoun tauvthn refers back to apaggeliva and stands first in its clause after the o{ti for emphasis.

78 A quotation from Ps 2:7 (Grk “I have begotten you”). The traditional translation for gegevnnhka, “begotten,” is misleading to the modern English reader because it is no longer in common use. Today we speak of “fathering” a child in much the same way speakers of English formerly spoke of “begetting a child.”

79 See C.S.C. Williams, Acts, 164.

80 The translation “to be in again” for uJpostrevfw is given in LN 13.24.

81 A quotation from Isa 55:3. The point of this citation is to make clear that the promise of a Davidic line and blessings are made to the people as well.

82 See Jacques Dupont, Etudes sur les actes des apotres, Lectio Divina 45 (Paris: Les Editions du Cerf, 1967), who says, “Il est beaucoup plus difficile de se rendre compte du rle que la citation d’Isae joue dans la raisonnement et du sens qu’il faut attribuer aux termes qu’elle emploie.”

83 Conzelmann, Acts, 105.

84 C.S.C. Williams, Acts, 164.

85 Grk “Therefore he also says in another”; the word “psalm” is not in the Greek text but is implied.

86 The Greek word translated “Holy One” here (o{siovn) is related to the use of o{sia in v. 34. The link is a word play. The Holy One, who does not die, brings the faithful holy blessings of promise to the people.

87 Grk “saw,” but the literal translation of the phrase “saw decay” could be misunderstood to mean simply “looked at decay,” while here “saw decay” is really figurative for “experienced decay.” This remark explains why David cannot fulfill the promise.

88 A quotation from Ps 16:10.

89 The participle uJphrethvsa" is translated as a temporal circumstantial participle.

90 Grk “fell asleep” (a common NT euphemism for death).

91 Or “forefathers”; Grk “was gathered to his fathers” (a Semitic idiom).

92 See 1QpHab 1:3a for an example of this. For further discussion on opposing views of the definition of midrash see, Addison G. Wright, "The Literary Genre Midrash," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 28 (1966): 105-38, and Roger LeDaut, "Apropos a Definition of Midrash," Interpretation 25 (1971): 259-82, who takes exception to some of Wright's conclusions; cf. also Rene Bloch, "Midrash" in Approaches to Ancient Judaism: Theory and Practice, ed. William Scott green (Missoula: Scholars Press, 1978), 29-50. On the origin and development of midrash from Hellenistic rhetoric see, David Daube, "Rabbinic Methods of Interpretation and Hellenistic Rhetoric," HUCA 22 (1949): 239-64.

93 Peter probably includes verse 8 in his quotation for this reason; to show that Jesus was the ultimate hasid (the miracles he did accredited him as such, see Acts 2:22). Only he could say those words without even the slightest trace of hypocrisy. David could not. Other than this, Peter does not refer to it explicitly as part of his argument in vv. 29-32.

94 For a fuller discussion of this text and the hermeneutical issues involved see my The Use of Psalm 16:8-11 in Acts 2:25-28 at

95 That is, Jesus. This pronoun is in emphatic position in the Greek text. Following this phrase in the Greek text is the pronoun uJmi'n (“to you”), so that the emphasis for the audience is that “through Jesus to you” these promises have come.

96 That is, Jesus.

97 Or “is freed.” The translation of dikaiwqh'nai and dikaiou'tai in Acts 13:38-39 is difficult. BAGD 197 s.v. dikaiovw 3.a translates dikaiwqh'nai in 13:38 (Greek text) “as a theological t.t. be justified,” but translates dikaiou'tai in Acts 13:39 as “from everything fr. which you could not be freed by the law of Moses” (s.v. dikaiovw 3.c.). In the interest of consistency both verbs are rendered as “justified” in this translation.

98 Or “could not free.”

99 Grk “from everything from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.” The passive construction has been converted to an active one in the translation, with “by the law of Moses” becoming the subject of the final clause. The words “from everything from which the law of Moses could not justify you” are part of v. 38 in the Greek text, but due to English style and word order must be placed in v. 39 in the translation.

100 Cf. the expression, “let it be known to you….”

101 Or “is freed.” The translation of dikaiwqh'nai and dikaiou'tai in Acts 13:38-39 is difficult. BAGD 197 s.v. dikaiovw 3.a translates dikaiwqh'nai in 13:38 (Greek text) “as a theological t.t. be justified,” but translates dikaiou'tai in Acts 13:39 as “from everything fr. which you could not be freed by the law of Moses” (s.v. dikaiovw 3.c.). In the interest of consistency both verbs are rendered as “justified” in this translation.

102 Or “could not free.”

103 Grk “from everything from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.” The passive construction has been converted to an active one in the translation, with “by the law of Moses” becoming the subject of the final clause. The words “from everything from which the law of Moses could not justify you” are part of v. 38 in the Greek text, but due to English style and word order must be placed in v. 39 in the translation.

104 The speech closes with a warning, “Watch out,” that also stresses culpability.

105 Or “in.”

106 Or “and die!”

107 A quotation from Hab 1:5.

108 Paul refers to the “prophets” in the plural yet cites only one text (i.e., Hab 1:5). This is because warnings from the prophets were common and the Habakkuk text is an example of such a warning, particularly apropos to his point.

109 Cf. David J. Williams, Acts, 237.

Related Topics: Soteriology (Salvation)

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